Canada to limit outdoor gatherings amid wave of infections in Ontario

Canada's most populous province is limiting outdoor gatherings to those in the same household and will close playgrounds and golf courses amid a record wave of coronavirus infections fueled by variants, Ontario's premier announced.

An essential worker thoroughly cleans a Covid-19 patient's room after they were transferred out of the intensive care unit at the Humber River Hospital in Toronto. Source: Associated Press

The decision sparked widespread condemnation in a province already on lockdown.

Police in Ontario will have the authority to require any individual not at home to provide a reason that they're out and provide their address. Tickets can be written.

"Law enforcement now has the ability to ask anyone outside their residence, including motorists, to indicate their purpose for leaving home and provide their address," the Ontario Provincial Police tweeted.

But the Waterloo Regional Police force said it would not conduct random vehicle or individual stops and Toronto Mayor John Tory said he is very concerned about arbitrary stops of people by police at any time.

Quebec closed its border to Ontario and Ontario Premier Doug Ford said interprovincial travel will be limited. Big box stores will be limited to 25 per cent capacity. Schools are already closed and students will resume online learning next week.

Ontario has averaged almost 5,000 new infections a day in recent days.

Ford complained about crowded parks and playgrounds, but made no mention of workplaces where the virus is spreading.

The new restrictions do not include mandated paid sick days, which health experts have said would protect vulnerable essential workers and help stop the spread of the virus in workplaces and the community at large.

Dr Andrew Morris, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Toronto and the medical director of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at Sinai-University Health Network, said Ford's government has learned "zilch" of how the virus is transmitted and is government is "morally bankrupt."

"Zero support for essential workers: I am absolutely disgusted. This is criminal," Morris said.

Dr Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease doctor in Mississauga, Ontario, said he was very disappointed with the decision to close playgrounds and limit outdoor activities.

"Unintended consequence is this going to drive people indoors where risk of transmission is higher," he tweeted.

Ford blamed a lack of vaccines for the latest restrictions but made no mention of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's announcement that Pfizer is doubling the amount of vaccines to Canada over the next month and getting millions more in May and June.