TORONTO -- An infectious disease specialist says scenes of people overcrowding a Toronto park on Saturday was an “expression of disrespect” to health-care workers and could spark a surge in new COVID-19 cases.

Speaking to CTV News Channel on Sunday, Dr. Abdu Sharkawy said it was “shocking” to see thousands of people at Trinity Bellwoods, a park in the heart of the city.

“That was just greatly upsetting to me and in the context of the sacrifices that people like myself and other front-line health-care workers put in, it felt like it was a disservice to us,” he said. “It felt like it was a real expression of disrespect and lack of consideration for the war that we’re waging to try and protect not only ourselves but everyone.”

As part of the city’s reopening plan, more than 850 parks and outdoor amenities were open to the public this week even though the province’s case numbers continued to spike.

Sharkawy said he believes these lifted restrictions are likely making people believe it’s OK to gather in public areas. He said people need to be responsible for doing their part in a battle that has not yet been won.

“I think a lot of people are under the false impression that the flattening of the curve is the end of our job here and it’s nowhere near, it’s only halfway through this marathon,” he said. 

Sharkawy said he thinks a surge in cases is likely to happen because of the weekend events, just like what happened after the Mother’s Day weekend.

“Initially there was a small surge in the number of cases, but that has sort of persisted over the past week, which has suggested that there was probably something that happened a couple of weeks back and it dates back to, not surprisingly, the Mother’s Day long weekend,” he said.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford also commented on the large crowds, saying Sunday he was “absolutely shocked.”

"The images I saw, we just can’t have that right now because there is still a deadly virus among us."

Ontario has reported more than 25,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Sunday. 

With files from CTV Toronto.