Crowds in Toronto park alarm Canadian officials wary of coronavirus outbreaks

The city government called it "unacceptable". PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

MONTREAL (AFP) - The premier of Ontario, Canada's most populous province, expressed shock Sunday (May 24) over a large crowd enjoying a sunny day at a Toronto park, warning of the risk of Covid-19 outbreaks.

"I thought it was a rock concert when I went out there. I was shocked. It's just too many people, too close," said Doug Ford, the provincial premier in a brief television interview.

He was referring to the thousands of people who gathered Saturday at Trinity Bellwoods to enjoy a sunny, summery day at the popular Toronto park.

The city government also issued a statement decrying the absence of social distancing evident in images of the gathering, calling it "unacceptable" and warning it risked setting back the city's efforts to stop the spread of Covid-19.

While saying he understood people's desire to go out on a beautiful day, Ford warned the virus could "still spread like wildfire."

"So we have to stay on guard and the key, our best defense right now, is to ramp up testing," he said, urging people to get tested if they have been exposed or show symptoms of the disease.

On Saturday, Ontario's health services performed 11,383 tests, fewer than their target of 16,000 tests a day.

As of Sunday, the province has had 25,500 confirmed new coronavirus cases and 2,140 deaths, compared to 84,000 cases and 6,447 nationwide.

Calls grew louder over the weekend for the legalisation of refugees or migrants working, often under difficult conditions, in residential facilities for the elderly, who account for 80 percent of the virus deaths in Canada.

Several dozen people demonstrated Saturday outside the Montreal home of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to demand that asylum-seekers risking their health and even lives by working in such establishments be granted permanent residency.

"They give their life to Quebec. Give them a life in Quebec," one protester was quoted by Radio Canada as saying.

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