TORONTO -- Ontario is tightening restrictions on visitor policies at some long-term care homes as the second wave of COVID-19 hits the province.

Starting Oct. 5, visitors to long-term care homes in regions with high case numbers will be restricted to staff, essential visitors and caregivers. 

The government did not provide a specific list of high-risk regions, saying they are working with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams to identify those areas.

Premier Doug Ford has urged family members or friends of residents to apply to be caregivers so they can continue visiting these homes.

"We have made it possible for family members or friends to come in as caregivers," Ford said at Queen’s Park on Tuesday. "I encourage family members, friends, please, sign up to be a caregiver."

Each resident is allowed to designate two people as caregivers. They can enter the home regardless of whether or not a COVID-19 outbreak has been declared at the facility. 

Ford said it is "critical" for family members to help out as caregivers, even if it’s only for a few hours. 

"It means more eyes and ears looking out for residents," he said. "We must do everything we can to support those who are isolated during these difficult days."

As part of the government’s COVID-19 fall preparedness plan, Ford also announced an additional $540 million in funding to protect residents in long-term care homes during the second wave.

"We're sparing no expense," Ford said. 

More than $400 million of the funding will go towards containment measures, staffing support and purchasing additional supplies of personal protective equipment. 

There will be $61.4 million put towards renovations in the homes to improve infection control, which includes ventilation and isolation capacity. 

About $30 million will be used for infection control staffing and training for existing staff. 

Ford, who said the decision to tighten restrictions wasn't made easily, said Monday that the province is now experiencing a second wave of COVID-19.

"We know that we are in the second wave and we know that it will be worse than the first wave," the premier said. "But what we don’t know yet is how bad the second wave will be."

"The reality is it’s up to each of us, together our collective actions will decide if we face a wave or a tsunami."

The CEO of the Ontario Long Term Care Association said in a statement that it welcomed the funding commitment made by the Ford government.

“With increasing cases across the province, these measures will be critical to ensuring the safety of our most vulnerable seniors,” Donna Duncan said.

“The recent escalation in cases and strains of the testing system demonstrates the need for us – long-term care homes, health system partners and government – to stay vigilant and move swiftly to ensure supports are in place to prevent and contain COVID-19 in our communities and our homes. Long-term care homes are as strong as the communities that support them. We cannot do this alone, and it will take all of us following public health protocols to hold onto our progress.”

As of Monday, there are 46 outbreaks in Ontario long-term care homes. Seventy-eight residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and 123 staff have been diagnosed with the disease.

Seniors were hardest hit during the height of the pandemic’s first wave. More than 6,000 long-term care home residents were infected while 1,800 died after contracting the disease.