04/25/2020 16:11 EDT | Updated 04/25/2020 16:39 EDT

Doug Ford Blasts ‘Reckless’ Protesters Rallying Against COVID-19 Measures

Ontario's premier also announced raises and bonuses for front-line workers.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford didn’t mince words when calling out dozens of “irresponsible, reckless and selfish” people protesting the province’s COVID-19 emergency measures outside of Queen’s Park in Toronto on Saturday.

Footage posted online showed the protesters were in violation of Ontario’s physical distancing rules, which includes keeping at least two metres apart and avoiding crowds, while they were demonstrating. 

“We have a bunch of yahoos out in front of Queen’s Park sitting there protesting that the place isn’t open, as they are breaking the law,” a visibly angry Ford said as he addressed the media during his daily briefing.

A demonstrator holds a sign during a protest to end the shutdown due to COVID-19 at Queen's Park in Toronto on Saturday.

Videos shared on social media showed the group of approximately 100 people chanting slogans outside the Ontario legislature building and calling for an end to the province’s shutdown of non-essential businesses in response to the novel coronavirus.

Some held signs claiming the virus is a hoax, despite the fact that more than 200,000 people have died around the world, according to Johns Hopkins University

Demonstrators gather during a protest to end the shutdown due to COVID-19 at Queen's Park in Toronto on Saturday.

Ontario has banned meetings of more than five people as part of its efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19.

“We have health-care workers down the street at these hospitals working round the clock, to protect the community and 99.9 per cent of people in this province are working together side by side, that’s the reason we’re able to see a flattening of the curve,” Ford said.

“[The protesters] are putting everyone in jeopardy, putting themselves in jeopardy, putting workers in jeopardy and God forbid one of them ends up in the hospital down the street.”

Ontario Premier Doug Ford responds to a question during his daily update regarding COVID-19 at Queen's Park in Toronto on Saturday.

The premier also said he hoped Toronto police officers would hand out tickets to the group. There’s currently an $880 fine in Toronto for not staying at least two metres apart from people outside your household. 

“They’re setting us back months ... Obviously they don’t care about everyone else,” Ford told reporters.

He also announced that front-line workers who are fighting COVID-19 will receive an hourly raise of $4 for the next four months, plus a $250 bonus every month they work more than 100 hours.

“It’s our way of saying thank you,” the premier said.

Approximately 350,000 workers will be eligible for the money, according to the provincial government. 

“For these heroes, getting up every day, getting back in the fight, getting back to the front lines, comes at a great price. It comes with a personal sacrifice. Nevertheless, every day, these brave men and women show up,” Ford said.

“They do this to look out for us and as premier, it’s my job to look out for them.”

The premier said the bonus will be eligible for workers in long-term care homes, retirement homes, emergency shelters, supportive housing, social services congregate care settings, corrections institutions and youth justice facilities, home and community care providers and some staff in hospitals.

As of Saturday afternoon, the novel coronavirus has infected 13,995 Ontarians and killed 811 people in the province.

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