As the number of positive COVID-19 cases continues to rise across the province, Ontario health officials are recommending the temporary closure of all dine-in restaurants and bars to prevent the spread of the virus.
The announcement was made first by Ontario’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams at a daily briefing with reporters on Monday afternoon. He added that the recommendation does not apply to takeout or delivery service.
“Some people would still probably benefit if they are in isolation to have that provision and make that helpful, so we are asking those things to stay,” he said.
Williams was first asked about whether restaurants should be open Monday morning, but said in the afternoon that the decision was made following consultation with his federal counterparts.
Health officials also urged people to avoid large gatherings of more than 50 people, including churches and other places of worship.
“We are taking a number of steps to increase the social distancing,” Williams said. "Right now, those are the things that we are really asking to take action on right away."
Shortly after the news conference, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health followed with further recommendations, asking that all nightclubs and theatres also close effective midnight on Tuesday.
“Last week, I made a number of recommendations on public health measures to protect our city. At this time, I am urging you to take further action,” Dr. Eileen de Villa said.
“I recognize that these recommendations will result in significant adjustments to our daily lives and they will present challenges. Please know, that I do not make these recommendations lightly. On the contrary, they are being made after careful and measured consideration.”
In a statement, de Villa said that if businesses do not comply with the recommendation, she will issue orders to individual establishments under Section 22 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act.
Any business that fails to comply could face fines of up to $25,000 per day, de Villa added.
Peel Public Health followed shortly with a statement of their own saying that all dine-in food establishments, nightclubs, movie theatres and concert venues should close at midnight.
"We are grateful that many restaurants, bars and food establishments have already taken the civic-minded step to voluntarily change how they do business to protect Peel residents,” Dr. Lawrence Loh, Acting Medical Officer of Health for the Region of Peel, said in a statement. “However, any business in Peel that chooses to defy either the Province’s or Peel Public Health’s recommendations will be subject to orders under the Health Protection and Promotion Act."
The decision to shut down restaurants and bars comes after numerous stores, tourist attractions, schools and daycares were closed. Late Sunday night, Goodlife Fitness, the biggest gym chain in Canada, shut down all of its locations.
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Toronto Mayor John Tory said that he supports the decision to close dine-in restaurants and focus on delivery services.
“We are following the advice of our public health professionals to make sure we are doing everything possible to confront the COVID-19 pandemic and protect our residents and our city. I encourage all Toronto residents to practice social distancing as much as possible to protect their health and the health of their loved ones and neighbours.”