A group of Kenora residents gathered on Saturday to protest the current COVID-19 restrictions.

The group wants to see the decision about lockdowns, masks and vaccines be put in the hands of the general public, not the government.

"It's basically the freedom of choice," said protester Allen Pencoff.

"We should be able to choose if we wear a mask, we should be able to choose if we take a vaccine and we should also have the freedom of movement," added Pencoff.

The group started their protest under the Whitecap Pavilion before making their way to the roundabout, where they held up signs and encouraged motorists to honk as a sign of support.

"There's way more support than negativity. There would be one scowl here and there, but everyone was honking. People are fed up," Pencoff noted.

About a dozen people, not wearing masks or social distancing, were rallying when KenoraOnline stopped by the protest. A gathering of this size is currently illegal under the 'stay-at-home' order which allows for outdoor gatherings of up to 5 people that you live with, and one other person who lives alone.

Tyler Allison, one of the protesters, says he's being mentally oppressed by the current restrictions.

"We all have come to the same agreement and collective idea that these lockdowns are doing more harm than they are good. They are affecting mental health, businesses and peoples' livelihoods," said Allison who adds that he's speaking for several people that are afraid to speak up.

Police and by-law officers do have the ability to issue fines for those that aren't complying with the 'stay-at-home' order. Refusal to comply with the orders can lead to a $750 fine for a resident and $1,000 for anyone that prevents an enforcement officer from performing their duties to enforce the orders.

The Kenora OPP say no fines were issued.

Dr. Kit Young Hoon, Medical Officer of Health at the Northwestern Health Unit says protests, where people are not following public health measures, are concerning.

“It is very concerning when people are not following public health measures and then, therefore, enter the workplace to potentially spread it to others,” said Dr. Young Hoon, addressing the media after a similar protest in the region in April.

“It’s just generally concerning when people are not following public health measures, and we’ve seen some evidence of that already, where individuals are not staying home when they’re sick or not properly following the control measures that are in place. That’s leading to spread in a number of our communities,” Dr. Young Hoon added.

Each region, in the province, is expected to transition back into the provincial COVID-19 response framework, after June 2, with certain safety restrictions pertaining to specific levels of risk within a region, unless the stay-at-home orders are extended once again.