MLHU issues 2 new Section 22 Class Orders around social gatherings, nightclubs
Hefty fines are part of two new Section 22 Class Orders that are being put into place by the Middlesex–London Health Unit.
Citing recent COVID-19 outbreaks related to high-risk gatherings and the ongoing presence of the Delta variant, the health unit says the orders around private gatherings and nightclubs, will go into effect as of 12 p.m., Thursday.
The first order re-iterates the limits placed on social gatherings outlined by the province, capping indoor gatherings at 25 people and limiting outdoor gatherings to 100.
When asked if the orders were being put into place because of planned FOCO (Fake Homecoming) celebrations in the city, Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Mackie said, “Certainly the gatherings that we've seen at with young people are front of mind and we definitely are concerned about the level of close contact… and of course, with things happening this weekend, we certainly could see more of that and so that is certainly one of the issues.”
This weekend’s planned, unsanctioned street parties, follow a troublesome couple of weeks in the return to campus. One western student was killed during an altercation, and police are investigating online allegations of drugging and sexual assaults of dozens of female students.
Councillor Phil Squire, in whose ward the annual massive gatherings take place, typically attends the event to observe. He tells CTV News he’s been advised to stay away this time for his own security. “Everything I’m hearing from constituents, from staff at the city, from police officers is that things are quite different. We’ve got more aggressive partying that’s leading to… leading to violence in some cases.”
London Mayor Ed Holder says safety is paramount. “‘And are you ever concerned about reputational risk?’ Yeah," he says, "But I will tell you, I’m more concerned about the safety of London citizens, all of them. And that’s got to be the priority for this weekend."
The order goes on to apply to any organized or informal public event or social gathering, whether held on a street or private dwelling, including houses, apartment buildings, condos and post-secondary student residences.
The second order applies to establishments that serve food and alcohol and are licensed by the Municipality and/or Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.
Under the order any patron who attends such an establishment must wear a mask or face covering at all times, except when they are consuming food or beverages while seated in a designated area.
The health unit also said it will also crack down on establishments that don’t have tables spaced apart far enough, or allow customers to flaunt the COVID-19 rules. Some restaurants say they’re doing the best they can with fewer staff than normal because so many have left the hospitality sector.
“For the most part, people have been compliant as well as they possibly can,” said Ron Scarfone, who manages Joe Kool’s on Richmond Row. “You know they’re not supposed to go and talk to other tables. We catch people doing it. It’s just human nature. They just feel that ‘hey we’re here having some food, we’re having some drinks, there’s some friends, let’s go say hi.’ Not thinking exactly of the consequences I guess.”
Failure to comply with these Section 22 Orders can result in a fine of $750.00 for individuals and $1,000.00 for a business or organization.
According to Associate medical Officer of health, Dr. Alex Summers, The section 22 orders can be enforced by a number of different people, including police and any provincial enforcement officer, which also includes bylaw inspectors under the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, as well as public health inspectors.
“All parties will be participating in these enforcement efforts as necessary. We as an agency, meet routinely with other enforcement agencies to review enforcement strategies,” said Dr. Summers. “This weekend as a most weekends, public health inspectors will be predominantly working with managed facilities restaurants, bars and nightclubs, where police and by-law may be more on those more spontaneous social gatherings, but again, all of those individuals are able to ticket under Section 22 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act.”