Ontario’s top public health official is expressing his frustration with residents who he says continue to ignore public health advice, despite a surging number of COVID-19 infections.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams told reporters at a briefing on Thursday that officials have recently seen a rash of new cases associated with New Year’s Eve gatherings after seeing a similar phenomenon occur earlier this month with infections tied to Christmas gatherings.

He said that while the vast majority of Ontarians have been “vigilant” in following public health advice, it has become increasingly clear that a small portion are choosing to ignore it, something that he said must change.

“People are continually not adhering and taking those precautions and we need them to do that,” he said. “Some people are doing very well. They have been vigilant and I know some are getting angry and saying ‘I am doing my part but I watch some other people and they are not doing it’ and they do not understand that. But then there are some people saying ‘I am not doing it and I don’t really care.’ I don’t understand that kind of thinking.”

Ontario’s rolling seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases stood at 2,256 when a provincewide lockdown began on Boxing Day but it has risen more than 50 per cent since then and is now 3,395.

While the Ford government did face criticism for delaying the start of the lockdown until Dec. 26, Williams said that a lot of the transmission being seen now resulted from activities around New Year’s Eve when most things were already closed.

“We have big outbreaks in places where we didn’t have them before and it seems like a lot of people just sort of waved it away and said ‘I didn’t think it would be a big deal.’ Well it was a big deal,” he said. “I am not sure what people were thinking. I mean how clearer could we be?”

Williams said that he believes a number of people are continuing to flout the restrictions, often because they don’t feel sick themselves.

But he said that it has been proven time and time again that people can transmit the virus without exhibiting symptoms.

His frustrations were also echoed by Dr. Dirk Huyer, who is helping to oversee the province’s outbreak response.

Huyer said that ultimately the province is in a position where it needs to order the closure of most businesses largely because of the actions of a “small number of people” who aren’t taking the pandemic seriously enough.

“Everybody is working the best they can together to take these steps and unfortunately it hasn’t worked because a few or some haven’t taken the steps that are necessary,” he said. “There are steps that can be taken but people took chances, people didn’t fully evaluate the risk of the situation they were going into and people didn’t recognize the consequences that could occur and it is unfortunately a very tragic outcome in many situations. People have died, people are sick, the healthcare workers are overwhelmed, hospitals are close to shutting down with outbreaks in many different settings and there is all sorts of challenges with long-term care homes."