TORONTO -- Ontario is now urging people across the province to stay home except for essential purposes and has announced the three COVID-19 hotspots will revert to a modified Stage 2, which means the closure of indoor dining, gyms and movie theatres.

Effective 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 10, a number of new measures will be implemented in Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa, which includes the shutdown of indoor dining and gyms for the next 28 days.

The indoor dining restriction applies to restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments, including nightclubs and food courts in malls.

Indoor gyms and fitness centres, including yoga studios and dance studios will also be closed in these regions. Cinemas, casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments are also required to close. 

As of Oct. 13, weddings in Ontario will be forced to comply with updated public health measures, which limit 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.

Schools and daycare centres will remain open across the province without any changes.

"Limit trips outside of home, except for essential purposes only such as work where it is not possible to work from home, school, grocery shopping, medical appointments, and outdoor healthy physical activity," the government said Friday.

Health officials are asking that people do not travel to other regions in the province, especially from higher tramission areas to lower tramissions areas, unless it is for essential purposes.

Other businesses that are being forced to close include:

  • Performing arts centres and venues.
  • Spectator areas in racing venues.
  • Interactive exhibits or exhibits with high risk of personal contact in museums, galleries, zoos, science centres, landmarks.
  • Prohibiting personal care services where face coverings must be removed for the service.
  • Reducing the capacity limits for tour and guide services to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.
  • Real Estate open houses limited to 10 people indoors, where physical distancing can be maintained.
  • In-person teaching and instruction to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors, with exemptions for schools, child care centres, universities, colleges of applied arts and technology, private career colleges, the Ontario Police College, etc.
  • Meeting and event spaces to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.
  • Limiting team sports to training sessions (no games or scrimmages).

"All trends are going in the wrong direction," Premier Doug Ford said Thursday.

The government says if current trends continue, the province could experience "worst-case scenarios" seen in northern Italy and New York City earlier in the pandemic.

"Friends, we have to do everything possible to avoid widespread lockdowns and we cannot go back to Stage 1," he said. 

Ford said he "can't stress enough" how difficult it was for him to close these businesses, adding it was the hardest decision he has ever made in office.

"My heart just breaks for these folks and I understand what this decision means to each and every one of you," Ford said. "I can tell you that I didn't sleep last night. Believe me this weighs heavy on me for making this decision. I know what this will do for businesses that are already struggling." 

Ford, who has fought to avoid these types of closures, said Friday that if he didn't act now he would be "negligent."

Ford said he has directed Finance Minister Rod Phillips to make $300 million available to support affected businesses.

"This funding will assist small businesses with their fixed costs during the next 28 days," Ford said.

The help will include waiving provincial and municipal property tax bills, as well as Hydro and natural gas bills."

"This money will be made available as soon as possible," Ford said, promising to release more details in the coming days.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said Friday that Ontaro's curve is not "just growing, it's growing exponentially." 

"We know we are asking for very real sacrifices from Ontarians," Elliott said. "But this is about preventing something potentially much worse. We need to act now to keep our schools open and to protect our seniors and loved ones in long-term care and to avoid the need for stricter measures in the future."

Earlier in the day, an official said that in all COVID-19 models, both Ontario's best and worst case scenarios, the number of intensive care beds occupied by COVID-19 patients will exceed 150 in the next month, the threshold where it becomes difficult to maintain normal hospital capacity.

"All of these (models) actually cross that threshold within the next 30 days," Adalsteinn Brown, Dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, said Thursday. "In our worst case scenario, it crosses other thresholds that really lead to the reduction of access to hospitals."

The number of new COVID-19 cases in Ontario reached a new high for the second day in a row. Health officials confirmed 939 new infections Friday morning, beating the previous record of 797 cases set on Thursday.

Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 were up Friday, with 225 people admitted, compared with 192 a day earlier. The province said 47 people are in intensive care and 29 are on a ventilator.

In Ontario's latest epidemiological report, 336 new cases were confirmed in Toronto, 150 were in Peel Region, and 126 were in Ottawa.