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Ontario and City of Toronto urge restaurants and bars to close due amid coronavirus pandemic

Last Updated Mar 17, 2020 at 6:57 am EDT

Fast food restaurant signs are shown in Erie, Pa. on Aug. 26, 2014. A Quebec judge has upheld a Montreal borough's bylaw that limits where new fast food restaurants can open as part of a broader health initiative. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Christopher Millette/Erie Times-News
Summary

Toronto Public Health has confirmed they have seen community transmission of COVID-19


Toronto's Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa is strongly urging restaurants and bars to close


Provincial health officials are recommending cancelling any gathering of 50 or more people


It looks like many people will be drinking their green beer from home this St. Patrick’s Day as bars and restaurants around the city shut their doors at the suggestion of city officials.

Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa said Monday that she is strongly encouraging bars and restaurants to close and only offer take-out and delivery. She asks that they move to take-out and delivery no later than midnight Monday night.

The move comes after Toronto Public Health confirmed it has evidence of community spread of the coronavirus, with de Villa saying three cases have turned up that have no link to foreign travel. The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the province almost doubled in the last few days, with the number of cases reported daily increasing rapidly.

She added that nightclubs, movie theatres and concert venues should also consider closing.

“Please know that I do not make these recommendations lightly,” she said and asked that they be acted upon my midnight. “Our hospitality industry contributes significantly to the life of our city. We are taking this action today to protect the health of our city.”

She warned that while she is still not issuing blanket bans this time, if she has to issue emergency orders, they would be backed up with the possibility of fines for businesses up to 25-thousand dollars per day under the Health Protection and Promotion Act if they didn’t abide by the recommendation.

De Villa also reiterated that people should work from home if they can and encouraged employers to help staff stay home.

“I am calling on our city to rise to this challenge to reduce the spread of this virus,” she said.  “Every opportunity to avoid interactions with others helps to prevent the spread of disease. Every interaction avoided helps to flatten the curve.”

The province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams also suggested bars and restaurants limit themselves to take-out and delivery if possible.

To encourage the transition, all retail businesses are exempt from the City of Toronto Noise Bylaw to facilitate after-hour deliveries effective immediately.

“We are taking this action to help Toronto businesses get deliveries and continue to stock their shelves with essential goods for our residents,” Mayor John Tory said in a statement.

“By exempting retail businesses from the City’s noise bylaw right now, we will ensure that retailers can receive deliveries 24 hours of a day, seven days a week. This action is part of the City’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic and my focus on protecting the people of Toronto, including our most vulnerable residents, and helping businesses.”

Health Minister Christine Elliott said Ontario is not yet at the point of ordering the closure of bars and restaurants, but added that the situation is rapidly changing and the province will take the step if necessary.

In the same vein, provincial health officials are recommending cancelling any gathering of 50 or more people as soon as possible to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

This would include libraries, private schools, day cares, restaurants, bars, private schools, churches and places of worship.

Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health, added that while over a 1000 people in hospital with respiratory illnesses and those in long term care facilities have been tested and they are all negative, they still cannot definitively rule out community spread.