Strict limits on private gatherings requested as coronavirus cases rise in London, Ont.

The health unit, in consultation with the City of London and County of Middlesex, is requesting that new restrictions on gathering sizes announced by the province for Toronto, Peel Region, and Ottawa be extended to the London, Ont., region.

The City of London and Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) had been trying to take an education-first approach, but tactics appear to be changing after spiralling community outbreaks of the novel coronavirus.

On Thursday, Premier Doug Ford announced new restrictions starting Friday for the three regions, reducing private gatherings to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors, down from 50 and 100, respectively.

The MLHU announced Friday afternoon that it’s requested that those same restrictions be extended locally.

“We’re very grateful that the province has offered to extend the gathering limit reductions to other jurisdictions,” said medical officer of health Dr. Chris Mackie.

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“From my understanding, (approval) may happen as early as an announcement today and possibly implementing over the weekend.”

Those hosting private gatherings exceeding the limit could see fines of at least $10,000, while “those who simply attend such parties and gatherings can be fined $750,” Mayor Ed Holder added.

“We haven’t seen a two-day case count such as we’ve experienced over the last 48 hours since mid-April.  And depending on how we fare over the weekend, this could become the worst stretch of cases in London-Middlesex, since the pandemic’s onset.”

Mackie said if the restrictions are, for whatever reason, not extended to the MLHU’s jurisdiction, he is prepared to issue a Section 22 order through Ontario’s Health Protection and Promotion Act to limit gathering sizes within the community.

“This is the second wave.”

The request comes as London faces a surge in cases. On Thursday, Western University confirmed that 28 of its students had tested positive for coronavirus within the span of a week.

The health unit, meanwhile, says there’s been a total of 47 new cases in total in the last week — 30 since Wednesday alone.

Additionally, three outbreaks have been declared in the last week: one associated with downtown bars and restaurants, one tied to a large party, and one reported Friday related to a Walmart in Hyde Park.

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