TORONTO — City officials in Toronto are condemning the “dangerous” behaviour of people who flooded a popular downtown park on Saturday, saying they could cause a surge in COVID-19 cases.

A statement released by the City late Saturday night says thousands of people packed Trinity Bellwoods Park on one of the first warm days of the year, flouting physical distancing regulations.  

“They are putting their own health at risk and by risking the spread of the virus to others, they could contribute to the kind of setback we are trying hard to avoid,” Toronto Mayor John Tory said on Twitter. “I know from talking to them tonight these are smart people who simply have to do better going forward.”

Numerous photos shared across social media platforms show hordes of people lounging in the park, apparently disregarding physical distancing regulations.

The city has made it illegal to come within two metres of someone from a different household in parks and public squares.

Those who break the bylaw could be handed a $1,000 ticket on the spot, though officers can also issue higher tickets — subject to the court system — in which fines go up to $5,000 on conviction.

Tory said bylaw officers would be out in force on Sunday.

The city’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, also condemned the “selfish and dangerous behaviour” of parkgoers.

She noted the city has seen an uptick in cases of COVID-19, reporting 258 new cases on Friday alone.

Both Tory and de Villa said some people were practising good physical distancing at other parks, but Trinity Bellwoods was way overcrowded.

Photos of the park drew much ire on social media, with Beck Taxi tweeting: “Please don’t contact us for a ride home if you’ve spent the day at Trinity Bellwoods Park ignoring physical distancing rules.”

The City’s statement put it more bluntly.

“More than 700 people from Toronto have tragically lost their lives due to COVID-19,” it reads. “Public gatherings, like today’s in Trinity Bellwoods Park, threaten to undo the difficult and challenging work residents of this city have done over the last 10 weeks in their collective effort to beat COVID-19.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 23, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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