Updated at 5 p.m. (EDT): Toronto, Canada’s biggest city, has made it illegal to stand within 2 metres of another person in public, with offenders risking a $5,000 fine issued by law enforcement.
The bylaw, which will last for at least 30 days, targets public parks and squares, the city’s mayor John Tory said, but he did not specify if all public spaces were covered.
He signed the bylaw a day after he said Toronto is effectively locked down because of a 500 percent increase in COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks in the region.
“This will address the real nub of the problem thus far,” Tory said.
People who already live together are exempt, Tory said, adding that people are allowed to go outside for exercise and to walk their dog, as long as they maintain distance from others.
The city had 653 confirmed and 165 probable infections as of Thursday morning.
"The numbers are presently heading in the wrong direction in Toronto," said Tory.
On Wednesday, Tory announced a 12-week plan to contain COVID-19.
Torontonians are expected to stay at home at all times unless they are getting daily exercise, walking dogs, or accessing essential services like grocery stores or pharmacies.
Ontario’s government has already given police, First Nation constables, special constables, and bylaw officers the right to ask anyone on the street for identification if they are charging them for breaching an emergency order.
Residents who may have been exposed to COVID-19 or are sick themselves have to self-isolate for 14 days.
The massive spike in cases in Toronto is in part due to the city’s scaled up testing efforts. And because the virus can live in the body for up to two weeks, many new cases could have been contracted days—if not weeks—ago.
Justin Trudeau refuses to release projections
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is not releasing data detailing projections for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Canada, despite repeated requests to do so, so that Canadians can understand the severity and long-term realities of the pandemic.
Trudeau said he will not release data until it is analyzed in a way that “actually makes sense and reflects what’s going to happen in Canada.”
He added that data sharing needs to be streamlined and coordinated with Canadian provinces.
Despite withholding national projections that said physical distancing would have to last until at least July, first reported by the National Post, Trudeau told Canadians it’s up to them to shorten the timespan for physical distancing.
“People want to know what the model is, how long they are likely to be in this situation,” Trudeau said. “Those analyses depend directly on Canadians’ behaviours.”
Canada’s chief medical officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, echoed Trudeau’s statements and said “we’re still in the early days,” so it is too soon to release long-term estimates.
The country has to figure out how to collect accurate data from every province and territories, where COVID-19 shapes out differently before it can provide Canadians with sufficient analysis, Tam said.
By staying at home and keeping at least 2 metres away from others, Trudeau said Canadians will continue to curb COVID-19 spread.
Meanwhile, Ontario Premier Doug Ford told reporters that he will share coronavirus data with the public on Friday.
New virus-fighting measures
Quebec, the province which has reported the highest number of cases (partly due to rapid testing), is also ramping up measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
Premier Francois Legault urged Quebecers to stop travelling within the province, as the COVID-19 count inches towards 5,000, accounting for more than half of Canada’s more than 9,000 known cases. The point is to prevent the disease from spreading throughout the province. Legault even installed checkpoints around four regions to prevent movement, and said Quebecers should only travel if “absolutely necessary.”
Provinces are also doubling down on economic support for people hardest hit by the pandemic. On Thursday, British Columbia announced a $300 crisis supplement for anyone receiving senior, income and disability assistance, and Ontario announced $12 million for virtual mental health support systems.
Oil and gas worker tests positive
A COVID-19 case was confirmed at an LNG worksite in northern British Columbia on Wednesday, according to Global News.
According to the company, the employee reported symptoms on March 28 and immediately returned home to self-isolate, and people at risk of exposure were informed. Ontario, B.C., and Alberta have explicitly said resource extraction workers are “essential,” and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Tuesday that he believes companies are taking necessary steps to keep communities said and will not send workers home.
The news follows calls from Indigenous communities living near resource extraction sites to shut down all resource development until the pandemic is over. Many people worry COVID-19 could be spread from work sites to Indigenous communities, many of which don’t have access to clean running water and medical supplies necessary for combatting COVID-19.
There’s an app for COVID-19
The Canadian government launched a free COVID-19 app on Wednesday that teaches Canadians about the disease and how to prevent it. It also outlines travel advice as well as the country’s current economic measures geared towards helping people who have lost their jobs as a result of the virus.
COVID-19 cases skyrocketing
As of Thursday morning, the country has more than 9,000 probable or confirmed cases and at least 105 deaths, most of which have been recorded in British Columbia, Quebec, and Ontario. Here is the breakdown of confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases across Canada:
British Columbia: 1,013
Newfoundland and Labrador: 152
New Brunswick: 70
Nova Scotia: 147
Prince Edward Island: 21
Northwest Territories: 1
There are more than 820,000 known COVID-19 cases globally, with more than 40,000 deaths.
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Clarification, April 2, 2020: A previous version of this article said "Ontario’s government has already given police, First Nation constables, special constables, and bylaw officers the right to ask anyone on the street for identification if they suspect someone is breaching an emergency order," when they can only ask you for ID if they are going to charge you.