A doctor has made an emotional plea after thousands of people flooded a Toronto park on Saturday, apparently flouting physical distancing rules in place to stem the spread of COVID-19.

In a video posted to Twitter on Saturday, Abdu Sharkawy a Toronto-area infectious diseases specialist, urged Canadians to consider the risks their actions can pose for others, saying “everyone is in this together.”

This isn’t right. Respect and compassion is a 2 way street. pic.twitter.com/xtecDTB3x5

— Abdu Sharkawy (@SharkawyMD) May 23, 2020

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“Every single one of us is responsible for each other, it doesn’t matter whether it says doctor before your name or not,” he said.

Sharkawy’s remarks came just hours after videos and photos surfaced online of thousands of people crowding Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto on Saturday.

The photos show hoards of park-goers sitting in groups, appearing to be closer than the two-metre distance recommended by health officials.


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Sharkawy said he felt “hurt” to see people ignoring the physical distancing rules.

“I’m really saddened when I see that because I wonder if those people know the sacrifices people like myself or my colleagues in the emergency room and the ICU are making to allow you to have the freedom to spend your day out in the sun, in parks and on lake shore properties, and on cafe sidewalks.”


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Ultimately, Sharkawy said “we have to do better.”

I don’t want my ER and my ICU filled up again with sick people in another few weeks,” he said. ” Please, please listen to me: Be respectful, be caring. Remind yourself that everything that you are doing affects a lot of people around you.

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And Sharkawy was not the only one who was concerned and disappointed.


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David Carr, an emergency room doctor in Toronto with the University Health Network also tweeted his concern, saying it was “painful” to see the photos from Trinity Bellwoods Park.

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He said in the next seven to ten days, the number of COVID-19 cases could increase to more than 500 per day.

“One can only foreshadow that park to look like my ED waiting room,” he wrote.

7-10 Days from now… we will be over 500 cases per day
It is painful to see pics of Trinity Bellwoods today. One can only foreshadow that park to look like my ED waiting room https://t.co/ajZHi9EnPZ

— David Carr (@davidcarr333) May 23, 2020

City officials were also quick to condemn the park-goers’ behaviour.

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The city’s medical officer of health, Eileen de Villa said it was “disappointing” to see.

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“It was a beautiful day & we all want to enjoy our city together, but this could be selfish & dangerous behaviour that could set us back,” she wrote in a tweet.

De Villa urged Torontonians not to socialize in groups, and to continue practising physical distancing.

I understand that the photos of people in Trinity Bellwoods were disappointing today. It was a beautiful day & we all want to enjoy our city together, but this could be selfish & dangerous behaviour that could set us back. (1/3) pic.twitter.com/cKVj0DdBhh

— Dr. Eileen de Villa (@epdevilla) May 23, 2020

“Please continue to take care of each other,” she wrote.


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What’s more, Toronto’s Mayor John Tory told Global News he was “deeply disappointed,” and went to Trinity Bellwoods Saturday evening to ask people why they were gathering.

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“It seems more that people just decided it didn’t really apply to them, that there was no risk to them and they didn’t consider that there was a risk everybody else,” he said. “And they went about doing what they did, which is just deeply disappointing, and it’s got to change, it’s got to be better today.”

Tory said people in the park were acting irresponsibly.

I can tell you from having been there, people were not exercising personal responsibility and they were just ignorant of the fact that people are sick and dying in the city and that they have to play their part in wrestling this virus to the ground,” he said.

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He said elsewhere in the city, people were able to enjoy the sunny weather, but in a responsible way.

“At the end of the day, you know, everybody else in the city seemed to figure out the fact that you can be outside, you can enjoy the parks, [and] you can do that while keeping your distance from other people and sitting in groups of less than five,” he said.

“Everybody else figured that out all around the city — I saw other parks — it was just people here for whatever reason that decided they weren’t going to do that.”


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According to Tory, the city’s police force and bylaw officers will be out in increased numbers on Sunday to reinforce physical distancing.

“They will be trying to educate and encourage people to do what is pretty simple — sit in small groups of five or less of the people you live with and separate yourselves by at least two metres from other people,” he said.

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The city has made it illegal to come within two metres of someone from a different household in parks and public squares.

Those who break the bylaw could be handed a $1,000 ticket on the spot, though officers can also issue higher tickets — subject to the court system — in which fines go up to $5,000 on conviction.

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Ontario reported 460 new cases of the novel coronavirus Sunday morning, bringing the total number of cases in the province to 25,500 and marking the highest single-day increase since May 8.

Twenty-five new deaths were also announced, bringing the total fatalities attributed to the virus in the province to 2,073.

–With files from Global News’ Ryan Rocca and The Canadian Press

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