Ontario Tightens COVID-19 Restrictions in ‘Hotspot’ Regions for at Least 28 Days
On October 9, 2020, the Government of Ontario announced additional restrictions on and closures of public gatherings, specific businesses, and indoor food and drink service, in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19. These restrictions are currently applicable within the “hotspots” of the “Ottawa, Peel, and Toronto public health unit regions.”
These restrictions are effective at 12:01 a.m. on October 10, 2020, and will be in place “for a minimum of 28 days and reviewed on an ongoing basis.”
Social gatherings in these hotspots will be limited to “a maximum of 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors,” provided physical distancing of 2 metres or more can be maintained. The government has clarified that these “limits may not be combined” in order to host larger gatherings.
Real estate open houses, meeting and event spaces, and in-person teaching and instruction are subject to the same social gathering limits. There remain exemptions from these restrictions for schools, childcare centres, and universities and colleges.
Food and drink service in indoor restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and shopping mall food courts are now prohibited. Additional restrictions on outdoor food and drink service are not yet in place.
Certain businesses are also prohibited from operating, such as indoor gyms, fitness centers, indoor cinemas, performing arts venues, close-contact personal care services, and casinos and bingo halls.
The government has stated that “[t]he Chief Medical Officer of Health and other public health experts continue to closely monitor the evolving situation across the province to advise if and when public health measures or restrictions should be adjusted or tightened.” If COVID-19 cases in Ontario continue to increase, it is not unreasonable to expect that these restrictions may be implemented beyond the Ottawa, Peel, and Toronto regions to the entire province.
The restrictions also come after the government last week announced mandatory face covering requirements for indoor public businesses and a required COVID-19 screening checklist for businesses. Businesses must continue to comply with these previously announced requirements.