The Ontario government will shutter most non-essential businesses, including gyms and personal care services, and will prohibit sit-down service in restaurants in two of the province’s COVID-19 hot spots as they grapple with a rise in infections.
Toronto and Peel Region have been placed in a lockdown, which is the province’s final category of the COVID-19 tiered framework that guides restrictions.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford made the announcement late Friday afternoon on the same day the province’s total number of lab-confirmed COVID-19 infections surpassed 100,000.
“I know these past few months have been extremely difficult,” Ford said. “COVID fatigue is setting in on all of us. But I've seen
the strength of our people and it's up to each and every one of us to determine our future to write the next chapter of our history.”
As well, the regions of Durham and Waterloo have been moved to the fourth category, the “red zone,” of the province’s five-tier framework.
The new measures come into effect on Monday.
Officials have said that regions will remain in their zone for a minimum of 28 days. This means that Toronto and Peel will be under lockdown until at least Dec. 21.
"The situation is extremely serious and further action is required to avoid the worst case scenario,” the premier said.
“We cannot put in-class learning at risk, we can’t risk widespread outbreaks in our long-term care homes, we cannot risk overwhelming our hospitals. To protect our most vulnerable and protect what matters most we have to get the community spread under control.”
Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said that while there is no order mandating residents not travel between coloured-region, residents should really limit travel to essential purposes.
“We are all in this together,” he said. “You're responsible in your area, but also for the areas outside yours, because we know it affects the whole system.”
“We are going to be trusting and confidence that the public will do the right thing.”
Here’s what you need to know about the new lockdown measures:
Public events and social gatherings
All indoor organized public events and social gatherings are prohibited, with the exception of gatherings with members of the same household.
Outdoor gatherings have been restricted to 10 people, as long as physical distancing can be maintained.
Places of worship will be restricted to 10 people indoors and 10 people outdoors. This applies to religious services, weddings and funerals.
The restrictions would effectively mean worshipers in those regions would be prevented from praying inside and would instead have to travel to another region or attend services virtually.
Publicly-funded schools in Ontario and child-care centres will remain open under the lockdown, however post-secondary institutions will be open for virtual instruction only.
There will be exemptions for clinical training and trades, where in-person instruction is required.
Restaurants, bars and clubs
Indoor and outdoor service is prohibited at food establishments in lockdown regions. Takeout, drive through service, and delivery is permitted. This includes the sale of alcohol.
Retail and other businesses
Non-essential retail stores and some retail outlets have been restricted to curbside pick-up or delivery. This includes retail stores in malls.
Yorkdale Shopping Centre, Square One Shopping Centre and Scarborough Town Centre say they are extending their operating hours this weekend to "safely manage an anticipated increase in visitors." The malls will now be 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Square One and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Yorkdale and Scarborough Town Centre on Saturday and Sunday.
Essential businesses such as grocery stores, convenience stores, hardware stores, supply stores, alcohol stores, pharmacies will remain open and be limited to 50 per cent capacity.
Gardening centres and motor vehicle establishments will be open by appointment only.
Customers are required to stand two metres away from each other while in line at any of the businesses listed above.
Personal care services, such as hair salons, are closed. Casinos, bingo halls and gaming establishments, cinemas (except drive-ins), and performing arts facilities are also closed.
Sports and fitness centres
All indoor sports facilities and fitness centres will close, including indoor courts, pools and rinks. Outdoor sports and fitness classes will be limited to 10 people.
Indoor sports, including training, has been prohibited.
Community centres and other multi-purpose facilities will be allowed to open for certain activities such as child care.
All meeting spaces and event spaces will be closed with the exceptions of court services, government services, and mental health and addiction support services (with a maximum of 10 people).
When would a region go into lockdown?
The government also provided information on what officials will be looking for before deciding if a region should be moved into a lockdown, although the thresholds are admittedly vague.
As of Nov. 20, regions will be moved into a lockdown if they see “adverse trends” after entering the “red” zone. This includes:
• Increasing weekly case incidents and/or test positivity
• Increasing case incidence and/or test positivity among people over the age of 70.
• Increasing outbreaks among vulnerable populations or congregate settings
• Hospital and ICU capacity at risk of being overwhelmed
• Public health unit capacity for case and contact management at risk or overwhelmed
This information was previously left blank from the government’s tiered framework.
Changes to the red zone rules
The province also announced some changes to the red zone restrictions.
Indoor public gathering restrictions have been reduced to five people, while 25 people can still get together outdoors as long as physical distancing is maintained.
What supports are in place for businesses?
The province also said it will be doubling the funding available for businesses struggling amid the pandemic to $600 million. According to officials, the money would help support eligible businesses that are “required to close or significantly restrict services due to enhanced public health measures.”
Eligible businesses will be able to apply for a grant to help purchase personal protective equipment, as well as property taxes and energy rebates.