Premier Doug Ford appears to have broken Ontario's prescribed COVID-19 physical distancing measures, saying two of his daughters who live in different households visited his home over Mother's Day weekend.
Speaking to reporters at his daily briefing Monday, Ford said his family gathering was limited to six people, "direct family" only, with none of his daughters' husbands or boyfriends present.
"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," Ford said.
"I'd keep with immediate family. That would be my recommendation. I wouldn't get into the big gatherings. That just can't happen. We want to keep it with immediate family just for a little bit longer."
Ontario's emergency legislation prohibits social gatherings of more than five people — even if held at a "private dwelling." The rule does not apply to members of a single household or gatherings for funerals of 10 or fewer people.
The province's COVID-19 website also continues to state: "Everyone in Ontario should practice physical distancing to reduce their exposure to other people — this means staying at least two metres away from anyone outside your household."
WATCH | Ford says his daughters visited over Mother's Day weekend:
Ford's admission comes just days after Ontario's chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, expressed concern that some 55 per cent of new coronavirus infections are still being contracted through community spread.
Williams was asked Thursday if Ontarians could begin expanding their so-called physical bubble to include other households, as has been permitted in some other provinces, to which he replied:
"The key public health measure, as you recall, was the requirement for people to — except in the family unit or bubble — stay six feet away, ideally stay home, have very little interaction that would bring you in proximity of people closer than six feet. And that is still in place at this time."
Asked Monday how Ford's behaviour lined up with public health guidance on physical distancing, the premier's office said in a statement, "We understand that people want to spend more time with their friends, family and loved ones. Thanks to our collective efforts, we are now in a position where we can start to plan to ease public health measures.
"As we do, we continue to rely on Ontarians to use their best judgment when interacting with individuals from outside their household, e.g., staying six feet apart, ensuring people are symptom free, and continuing to practise proper hygiene."
Move prompts confusion
Still, Ford's comments seemed to prompt confusion online, with some Ontarians wondering if they can now begin visiting their own family members.
'We're asking people to hold the fort'
Asked for her reaction to the news, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said, "The premier made his own choices on the weekend."
Horwath said there has been "mixed messaging" from some political leaders on physical distancing.
WATCH | Ford's family visit causes confusion about COVID-19 restrictions:
"It's pretty clear that if we're still in this state of emergency, and the health experts are still advising that we stay two metres' distance and maintain contact only with your immediate household, then that's what people should be doing."
At a news conference on Monday, Dr. Williams said he didn't know the details of Ford's family gathering, but that his advice for Ontarians is still to maintain physical distance from people outside their immediate households.
Williams said members of his own family visited over the weekend, but kept their distance by staying on the front lawn.
"We're asking people to do their part to maintain the physical distancing at this stage and then ... when the community transmission is down enough, we can look at it," Williams said.
"At this point, our messaging is still the same and we're asking people to hold the fort for now."