More Ontario communities will move to Stage 3 of the reopening this Friday, but Toronto, the region of Peel and the region of Windsor-Essex are held back amid the increase in COVID-19 cases.
Windsor-Essex recorded 103 new cases of the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19 between Saturday and Monday, 67 of which were detected in farm workers. During the same period, Toronto reported 107 new cases, Peel 102.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Christine Elliott said “28 of Ontario’s 34 public health units are reporting five or fewer cases, and 18 of them have not reported any new cases” on Monday.
The latest regions and cities to move to Stage 3 on Friday are Durham, Halton, Hamilton, Haldimand-Norfolk, Lambton, Niagara and York. They will be allowed to reopen indoor bars and dining rooms, cinemas, gymnasiums and casinos under a set of strict guidelines and physical distancing measures.
Indoor gatherings of up to 50 people and outdoor gatherings of up to 100 people will also be permitted, provided the physical distance is respected.
Premier Doug Ford has called on other regions – Toronto, Peel and Windsor-Essex – to “please be patient” as the province continues to collect the four weeks of data required for an official move to the step 3.
Ford said the province was working with Toronto Mayor John Tory and his counterparts in Peel and the Windsor area, as well as their public health units, to assess the situation and find a way forward. “We know as a province that we cannot relax,” said the Premier. “We can’t give this virus an absolute thumbs up, and part of the process is learning from other jurisdictions what works and what doesn’t.”
As restaurants, bars and other establishments prepare to reopen, Ford also indicated that jurisdictions may impose further public health restrictions on this phase of economic reopening.
Tory urges Ontario to add more restrictions to reopening Toronto bars and restaurants
The province made the announcement as mayors of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, or GTHA, call for additional public health measures ahead of Stage 3, citing concerns over the risk of transmission of the COVID-19 virus in drinks and restaurants. In recent weeks, provinces like Quebec and Alberta have seen an increase in coronavirus cases following the reopening of bars and restaurants.
Mr Tory wrote a letter to Mr Ford on Saturday requesting that six additional public health measures be added to the province’s Stage 3 legal regulations for bars and restaurants.
“I think ensuring that these are requirements, rather than recommendations, will help ensure compliance and ultimately protect the health of our residents,” the mayor wrote. On Monday, the Mayors and Presidents of the GTHA released a statement expressing their “support for the possible addition of public health recommendations to be added to the provincial regulations guiding Stage 3.”
During his press conference, Ford said the courts have the power to impose further restrictions on public health.
“Every chief medical officer, every 34 in the province, under section 22 [of the province’s health act], they may impose stricter restrictions on bars. And, you know something, I don’t disagree with that, ”Mr. Ford said. “But it depends strictly on the local chief medical officer. If they want to do it, by all means. “
Ford said the chief medical officers of Ontario and Toronto “are in very frequent contact to develop a set of protocols that will ensure the safety and health of the people of the city of Toronto.”
Mr Tory and the town’s medical officer of health, Eileen de Villa, both stressed the importance of stricter rules on indoor bars due to the higher risk of transmission in these places.
“It only takes one person with COVID-19 in this type of situation to potentially infect many more,” said Dr de Villa. “We have to accept some risk with the reopening, but the critical point is to make informed decisions that balance the risk with the potential benefits. We need to find the balance that helps our city move forward in the safest way possible. “
With a report from Oliver Moore in Toronto
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