Casinos, trials set to resume in Ontario despite ‘pause’ in easing public health measures

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Various public services, including criminal courts and casinos, will reopen over the next four weeks despite the province’s announced “hiatus” to announce new measures to ease restrictions imposed by COVID-19.

And provincial officials say they don’t plan to do anything to change that, despite a steady rise in COVID-19 infections across the province.

“That’s what we’re sticking to right now and we ask them to stay the course, as well as the convention centers,” Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said of the imminent reopening of casinos.

Eleven OLG casinos operated by Great Canadian Gaming Corporation are planning to reopen, with slots but no table games, starting September 28.

The eleven casinos include Casino Woodbine in Etobicoke and Casino Ajax, as well as locations in Belleville, Brantford, Peterborough, Port Perry and Elora.

Casino occupancy will be capped at 50 customers at a time, in accordance with provincial guidelines.

In addition, at least 20 locations in the Ontario Court of Justice are planning to resume preliminary hearings and criminal trials on September 14.

Williams said a balance had to be struck between the growing need for increased criminal trial capacity and concerns about infection inside courtrooms.

“There is a big backlog and a lot of issues to deal with as well – so there is pressure to do it – but that doesn’t mean we can’t do it safely,” he said, adding A large number of measures targeting physical distancing and physical barriers between participants in court hearings have been adopted.

In Toronto, the public courts service counters will reopen to the public, by appointment only, also on September 14.

Over the past two weeks, daily COVID-19 infections have surpassed 100 every day, having fallen below that threshold from late July to mid-August.

The increase prompted Minister of Health Christine Elliott to announce a four-week operational hiatus to further ease public health measures.

The Ford government had previously considered increasing flexibility around “social circles” and spectators at sporting or cultural events as things they could potentially allow if the growth of cases continued to decline.

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