KINGSTON -- Kingston Police and the City of Kingston Bylaw Enforcement are threatening fines of up to $1,130 for large gatherings that are in violation of COVID-19 protocols.

With current provincial guidelines limiting gatherings to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors, a recent by-law approved by Council allows for more direct enforcement for groups that violate the rules, which police, city and public health officials now say will be strictly enforced. 

The issue is particulary pertinent with post-secondary students returning for the start of classes. 

A joint statement from Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington Public Health, Kingston Police and the City of Kingston said those holding or attending unsanctioned events can "expect immediate enforcement under the pertinent legislation."

It says the approach is necessary to contain the spread of COVID-19 and maintain the low case numbers the Kingston-area has seen since the start of the pandemic. 

Police and bylaw officers have the ability to issue fines from $500 to $1,130 to unsanctioned party goers, while charges could also be laid under provincial law with a maximum fine of $100,000. 

The joint statement said historically, large gatherings have been met with education and progressive enforcement, but with the risk of COVID-19 to the public, "a more immediate approach will be required to mitigate immediate health risks to the community this fall." 

The statement also said by-law and police will continue to work with the community, including post-secondary schools "to ensure that questions about the relevant legislation are addressed."