The Ontario government is slapping tighter restrictions on restaurants and bars, as well as ordering strips clubs to close, in an effort to crackdown on “outbreak clusters” of COVID-19.
As of Saturday at 12:01 a.m., all food and drink establishments across the province will no longer be able to sell alcohol after 11 p.m. and the consumption of alcohol on these premises will be prohibited after 12 a.m.
Under the stricter measures, these establishments will have to close by midnight and remain closed until 5 a.m., except for takeout and delivery. They will also be forbidden from allowing employees to gather on site and consume alcohol after hours.
The province has also ordered all strip clubs to close effective 12:01 a.m. on Saturday.
Two Toronto strip clubs have been linked to a total of nine COVID-19 infections in recent months and Toronto’s Rebel nightclub was the source of at least four cases this month.
The government announced these measures in a news release issued on Friday afternoon.
“Over the past five weeks, Ontario has experience an increase in the rate of new COVID-19 cases,” the news release said. “Private social gatherings continue to be a significant source of transmission in many local communities, along with outbreak clusters in restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments, including strip clubs, with most cases in the 20-39 age group.”
The number of new COVID-19 infections reported on a daily basis in the 20-39 age category continues to climb in recent weeks, with cases involving those under the age of 40 regularly accounting for two-thirds or more of all infections.
Speaking on Friday afternoon at a news conference held at Queen’s Park, Health Minister Christine Elliott said these measures are “designed to address the rapid increase in community transmission in order to keep schools, businesses and post-secondary institutions open and to protect our most vulnerable.”
“On the advice of Ontario’s public health officials, we are moving forward with these measures to help keep Ontarians safe by limiting the potential for exposure in locations where the current risk of transmission is higher, and to avoid future lockdowns.”
The new measures come one week after the province slashed the number of people who can attend social gatherings. Currently, 10 people can gather indoors and 25 can gather outdoors. Social distancing must be maintained with those outside of your 10-person social circle at these gatherings, according to the province’s safety measures.
Ontario logged 409 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Friday and Thursday. There were 335 new infections confirmed on Wednesday in the province, 478 on Tuesday and 425 on Monday.
At the beginning of September, Ontario put a pause on any further steps in its reopening plan citing the rise in infections.
It is not known how long these tighter measures will be in place.