Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he believes people can now gather with immediate family after two of his daughters visited his home on Mother’s Day weekend while COVID-19 physical distancing rules were still in effect.
The gathering of six people at Mr. Ford’s residence contradicts the distancing measures of his own health officials. A provincial emergency order prohibits social gatherings of more than five people from outside of the same home, and Ontarians have been advised to stay two metres apart from anyone who doesn’t live in their household.
Those measures were still in effect as of Monday, said David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, who told the public to “hold the fort,” while suggesting the province might further loosen restrictions by this coming weekend as the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to drop.
Mr. Ford said Monday that two of his daughters visited his Etobicoke home on the weekend, where he, his wife and his two other daughters live. He said he kept the visit to immediate family, without his daughters’ partners.
“I really trust the judgment of the people of Ontario. If you have an elderly mother or father and their health isn’t great, I wouldn’t chance it," he said.
“I’d keep with immediate family. That would be my recommendation. I wouldn’t get into the big gatherings. If we had our whole family, you’d have 30 some odd people. It just can’t happen."
In the meantime, the Ontario Legislature is set to meet on Tuesday to extend the province’s state of emergency until June 2. Mr. Ford said the move is necessary until the province sees a consistent two-week drop in cases. “Once we get through this, [the state of emergency] is going to be taken off the table,” he said.
Dr. Williams said Monday he didn’t know the details of the Ford family visit, but his own family stayed outside while visiting him the past weekend. He said Ontario is still asking people to stay two metres from each other and not interact with anyone from outside their home. He said about half of Ontario’s 300 daily cases are still being traced back to the community.
“We’re asking people to do their part to maintain the physical distancing at this stage,” Dr. Williams said.
Still, he expressed optimism that the province is experiencing a “downward trend” in cases and will soon be ready to enter the next phase of its economic recovery program. It would allow “select” businesses to reopen and permit “some small gatherings.”
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said mixed messages lead to confusion and create uncertainty for people who are wondering what they should or shouldn’t be doing.
“The health experts are still advising staying two metres [away] and maintain contact only with your immediate household,” Ms. Horwath said.
“The Premier made his own choices on the weekend. I had a lovely Mother’s Day with my son at home,” she said.
This isn’t the first time the Premier has faced criticism for his own actions during the COVID-19 pandemic. He acknowledged last week that he visited his cottage on Easter Sunday, days after urging Ontarians to stay home.
Mr. Ford said he drove up in his pickup truck by himself early in the morning to briefly check on plumbing concerns he had at the property.
The trip came days after Mr. Ford said at a news conference that he wouldn’t be travelling to his cottage that weekend and advised other seasonal residents to stay home.
With a report from the Canadian Press
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