By Steve Scherer
OTTAWA, Sept 19 (Reuters) - Canada's most populous province is cracking down on private social gatherings as COVID-19 cases surge, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said in a surprise news conference called on Saturday.
Ontario reported 407 new cases on Saturday compared with about 80 per day two weeks ago. Canada on Friday recorded 1,044 new cases from a day earlier, making it the third time in five days that new daily infections have topped 1,000.
Ontario is scrambling to tamp down a recent spike in coronavirus cases as children return to school and the province struggles to increase its testing capacity, forcing many in cities to wait in line for hours this week to get swabbed.
Private parties are a "significant contributor" to the recent rise, provincial health minister Christine Elliott said.
"Folks, we can't have these wild parties right now. It's just way, way too risky," Ford said in a nationally broadcast news conference. "We have to come down hard on the rule breakers."
Earlier this week, the nation's top medical officer warned that authorities could potentially lose the ability to manage the pandemic if action were not taken to slow the spread.
On Friday, Quebec said police would target more than 1,000 bars and restaurants to enforce rules curbing the spread of the virus as authorities warned of a possible second wave.
Similar to an announcement made two days ago and aimed at just three cities, including Toronto and Ottawa, indoor social events can include no more than 10 people, down from a previous limit of 50.
As of Saturday and for the next 28 days, the cap on outdoor gatherings will shrink to 25 from 100. Anyone holding an illegal party can face a fine of C$10,000 ($7,580), and those caught attending one a fine of up to C$750, Ford said.
(Reporting by Steve Scherer in Ottawa Editing by Matthew Lewis)
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