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Ontario imposes stage 2 restrictions on Toronto, Ottawa and Peel Region as new COVID cases soar

Friday, October 09, 2020 @ 5:10 PM | By John Schofield

Faced with the province’s highest single-day increase in new COVID-19 cases, the Ontario government has announced it will move Toronto, Ottawa and Peel Region back into “modified” stage 2 restrictions as of 12:01 a.m. Oct. 10.

Ontario announced 939 new COVID-19 cases on Oct. 9, significantly surpassing the 797 new infections recorded Oct. 8, which stood as the previous high.

“Protecting our communities requires difficult decisions to be made,” Premier Doug Ford said in a news conference. “In the past week,” he added, “the pandemic has picked up speed at an alarming rate. All trends are going in the wrong direction.”

In a government news release, chief medical officer of Health Dr. David Williams added, “We are seeing the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 rising, hospitalization rates are growing, and community outbreaks are entering our nursing homes and vulnerable congregate settings.”

The new restrictions prohibit indoor dining at restaurants and food courts, although takeout orders will be allowed to continue. The government is also ordering the closure of indoor gyms and fitness centres, indoor movie theatres, casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments, as well as personal care services where face coverings must be removed. Interactive exhibits with a high risk of personal contact in museums, galleries, zoos and other venues must also be closed.

In addition, gathering limits have been reduced to 10 indoors and 25 outdoors, as long as physical distancing can be maintained. The capacity limits also apply to tour and guide services, real estate open houses, in-person teaching and instruction, and meeting and event spaces. Team sports are limited to training sessions only.

The news release stated that schools, child care centres, before- and after-school programs, universities, colleges of applied arts and technology and private career colleges will remain open and are exempted from the gathering limits, but must follow public health guidelines. Places of worship will also remain open.

The government is allowing wedding receptions scheduled for the Thanksgiving long weekend to proceed under existing public health rules because of “the extraordinary costs associated with these functions.” But effective Oct. 13 at 12:01 a.m., the update public health measures will also apply to wedding receptions.

Ford and Minister of Finance Rod Phillips said the government plans to make $300 million available to assist significantly affected businesses with fixed costs, including property taxes, hydro and natural gas bills.

In a separate, Oct. 9 news release, Restaurants Canada, a Toronto-based industry organization, said the closure of indoor dining in Ontario’s COVID-19 hot spots will result in tens of thousands of lost jobs that will require government help to recover.

“Our sector was one of the first to suffer the impacts of this crisis and continues to be among the hardest hit,” Restaurants Canada president and CEO Todd Barclay said in the release. “Going back to this level of shutdown will be a huge blow. Restaurants deserve to see the data driving this decision and will need immediate emergency assistance so they can continue contributing to the social and economic fabric of the communities they serve.”

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