The Ford government is implementing tougher measures for bars and restaurants to try and stem the recent rise in COVID-19 cases across the province.
As of midnight Saturday, all restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments – including nightclubs – must stop selling alcohol by 11 p.m. each night and must be closed by midnight and remain closed until 5:00 a.m. except for takeout or delivery.
The government has also ordered all strip clubs to close.
‘We just can’t have these places open until 3 o’clock in the morning’
The government says says the tighter regulations will help limit the potential for exposure in places where the risk of transmission is higher.
“I think the vast majority of restaurant owners, they have been responsible but there have been outbreaks with staff members and it’s precautionary,” Premier Doug Ford said Friday. “I don’t think it’s the end of the world if people stop drinking at 11 and close it down at 12 o’clock.”
Ford added this is not about punishing restaurants and bars.
“I’ll stand up for the restaurants, these people are hurting. They’re hanging on by their fingertips …but there’s not too many people that are having dinner past 12 o’clock at night.”
“The nightclubs have been concerning. There’s been outbreaks and we just can’t chance it. We’re seeing the numbers that are basically under the age of 40 – those are the highest numbers. I don’t see seniors going into nightclubs too often, it’s usually that age group that are going in there. …We just can’t have these places open until 3 o’clock in the morning.”
‘There’s no easy way to say this: we have reached a dangerous tipping point in our battle with COVID-19’
The Vice-President of Restaurants Canada says he understands the government’s decision but wants to be clear: restaurants are not the problem.
“Our only issue is we’re afraid people will think we’re being scapegoated as the government is closing these down, then we must be the problem,” James Rilett tells 680 NEWS.
“Customers feel safe in restaurants. Most of the spread is in the community. We’ll accept these and move forward but we’re just hopeful people realize we’re not where most of the spread is happening.”
Toronto Board of Health chair Joe Cressey said he welcomed the news from the Ford government, adding unless we act now significant lockdowns loomed on the horizon.
“There’s no easy way to say this: we have reached a dangerous tipping point in our battle with COVID-19,” Cressy said. “By prohibiting the sale of alcohol after 11 pm, and requiring establishments to close by midnight, these measures will help reduce late-night socializing and close contact that can facilitate virus transmission.”
“Living with COVID-19 may be the new normal, but accepting drastic spikes in cases doesn’t have to be. I want to be clear: both individual behavioral changes and policy interventions are required. Every single resident has a role to play in helping to prevent the spread.”
The government is also requiring all businesses and organizations to comply with the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams, including screening people who wish to enter their premises for COVID-19 symptoms.
The move comes after the province changed the rules surrounding social gatherings last week, lowering the number of people permitted at outdoor events to 25 and indoor events to 10.
Ontario reported 409 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, and one new death related to the virus.
Ford also announced Friday that the province will spend an additional $741 million to help clear a backlog of surgeries that has developed at Ontario hospitals during the pandemic.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said the funds will help the health care system to build more capacity to manage case surges and outbreaks.
“We are working directly with our health care partners to ensure our … system is ready to respond to the challenges that we face with future waves of COVID-19,” she said.