Kingston, Ont., has tightened physical distancing rules in its municipal parks, saying tight gatherings there are threatening the health of the community.
According to a news release issued Friday, people over 16 who don't live together must stay two metres apart in city parks. That's despite provincial rules allowing people to form non-distanced social circles of friends from different households.
The new rule includes sports fields and play structures, but not other venues where distancing may not be possible. In addition, the Gord Downie Pier at Breakwater Park and surrounding area are now closed between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.
"Recurring situations in City Parks where individuals are not practicing physical distancing present an increased risk of COVID-19 community transmission," said Mayor Bryan Paterson in the news release.
"This is an important step to ensure that health regulations and recommendations are being followed for the community's wellbeing."
"I am not happy with what I have seen in Kingston over the past week," said the region's medical officer of health Kieran Moore in a separate release.
"[There have been] large gatherings of people who are not wearing face coverings nor physically distancing," Moore said. "We need to take action now, particularly ahead of Labour Day long weekend to prevent a potential surge in COVID-19 cases."
Anyone caught breaking the new rule can be fined $500 for failing to comply with an emergency order, the city said.
Moore also cautioned post-secondary students returning to Queen's University.
"Under normal circumstances, we would encourage students to socialize with peers and explore their new surroundings," he said.
"However, these are not normal circumstances with the highly contagious nature of COVID-19, these times demand all of us to consider our own behaviour."
Breakwater Park is just south of the Queen's University campus, and a popular venue for gatherings.
Universities and colleges in Ottawa issued a similar warning to students earlier this week.
The Kingston area's health unit has logged 112 confirmed COVID-19 cases, the last one on Aug. 25. Earlier this summer, public health officials dealt with an outbreak that was traced to nail salons in the city.