A new class order from Ottawa’s medical officer of health will see crowds at skating rinks, skiing trailheads and toboggan hills limited to 25 person maximums later this week to reduce the risk of coronavirus spread.
Dr. Vera Etches told reporters Tuesday that she will issue the class order under section 22 of Ontario’s Health Protection and Promotion Act.
The new rules, expected to come into effect on Wednesday, will see gatherings limited to 25 people at a time at skating rinks, at the tops and bottoms of sledding hills, and in the parking lots of skiing trailheads.
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The responsibility for enforcing the crowd size falls to the owner or operator of the site in question.
Bylaw officers will be able to hand out tickets to enforce the class order, but both Etches and Anthony Di Monte, the head of the city’s emergency and protective services, said Tuesday that the goal of the measure, as with similar restrictions introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic, is first and foremost about education.
Di Monte said bylaw officers will be instructed to talk to people at the sites in question before resorting to a ticket, but the possibility of a penalty exists.
“It’s not about giving tickets, but if we have to, that is part of the enforcement tool,” he said.
Some Ottawa residents have taken to social media in the past few days to post videos of large crowds of skaters at the Rink of Dreams at City Hall.
“They are raising concerns for me,” Etches said of crowd sizes.
She noted that the risk of virus transmission exists even while outdoors, and that masks and physical distancing should be used.
The City of Ottawa issued a temporary bylaw last week that mandated the wearing of masks at rinks while off the ice, with Etches adding Tuesday that residents are “highly encouraged” to use them while skating, too.
Etches clarified that the Rideau Canal Skateway, when opened, will not be subject to the class order, as the rink is under the National Capital Commission’s jurisdiction.
Di Monte said the NCC has been a willing partner with the city during the pandemic and said he expects the Crown corporation will act to limit crowd sizes.
A statement on the NCC website says that when the skateway is ready to open for its 51st season, health and safety measures will be in place.
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