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Ontario Premier Doug Ford speaks to the media at Queen's Park, in Toronto, on Sept. 28, 2020.Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Premier Doug Ford and public health authorities are rebuking those who participated in a car rally at an Ontario beach town over the weekend

Police had to close the town of Wasaga Beach to non-residents on Saturday after hundreds of car enthusiasts gathered over the weekend, breaking COVID-19 safety protocols.

Ford says he’s disappointed in the participants and that they should consider the implications of their actions.

Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for Simcoe Muskoka Public Health, says the car rally and events like it could contribute to Ontario’s rising numbers of COVID-19 cases.

Ontario recorded 700 new cases on Monday, most of them in the Greater Toronto Area and Ottawa.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said 60 per cent of the new cases are among people under the age of 40.

OPP Sgt. Jason Folz said Saturday’s event is believed to be related to a larger car rally in the United States. Due to the pandemic-related border closure, the Canadian group decided to have a meet-up in Wasaga Beach, he said.

Folz said some vehicles were seized and tickets were issued under the Highway Traffic Act and the Reopening Ontario Act, which currently limits outdoor gatherings to 25 people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A final number of tickets is in the works, though Folz noted that the sheer size of the crowd made ticketing a challenge for officers.

Gardner said he applauds the police for their work in enforcing the size limit on public gatherings.

Ford said that he hopes the tickets lead to the maximum possible fine.

“We’re going to be on to them,” the premier said. “We have the largest fines in the country and I hope every one of them gets a $10,000 fine, I really do.”

Folz said the town of Wasaga Beach heard of plans for the event and responded by installing some speed bumps in municipal parking lots ahead of time to try and deter some of the dangerous driving.

Police officers from Peel and York regions were also in Wasaga Beach this weekend to help contain the situation, he said.

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