Group of Ontario doctors calls for new indoor dining, gym restrictions due to spike in COVID-19 cases

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WATCH ABOVE: After a recent surge in numbers, a group of health leaders and physicians says the Ontario government must take immediate action to stop COVID-19 from spreading. They’re calling for places where there is a high risk of transmission, such as bars and restaurants, to be shut down. Miranda Anthistle reports.

A group of Ontario doctors is calling on the provincial government to implement stronger restrictions amid a recent rise in coronavirus cases in the province.

In a statement issued by the Ontario Hospital Association Thursday on behalf of 38 health-care professionals, the doctors said they want the government to restrict “non-essential businesses and activities that facilitate social gatherings and increase opportunities for exposure.”

They called for new measures to be implemented for indoor dining at restaurants and bars, as well as operations at nightclubs, theatres, gyms, and places of worship.

The statement didn’t elaborate on what restrictions the doctors specifically want to see implemented but Dr. Larissa Matukas with Unity Health Toronto, who signed onto the letter, said they want to see them temporarily closed.

Read more: Ontario reports 409 new coronavirus cases with most in Toronto-area, Ottawa

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“The province must also ask non-essential businesses to have employees work from home and instruct universities and colleges to offer classes online, wherever possible,” the statement read.

“While maintaining our province’s economy is always a priority, we are extremely concerned that, without action, the current rate of spread will require a return to widespread closure of non-essential businesses and schools to prevent a rise in hospitalizations.”

The doctors noted that on Tuesday, 478 new infections were reported in Ontario which was the highest increase since early May.

On Thursday, 409 new cases were reported after a drop on Wednesday with 335.

Last week, the provincial government announced new restrictions on private and unmonitored social gatherings — limiting indoor groups to 10 people and outdoor to 25 after health officials said many new cases were being traced back to gatherings. The restrictions do not apply to staffed facilities, however.

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“Other jurisdictions have underestimated the speed of which this virus can spread and are now facing the consequence of increased hospitalization rates, including a rise in intensive care unit admissions and more deaths,” the doctors’ statement said.

Read more: New COVID-19 gathering restrictions expanded to all of Ontario

Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health Dr. Barbara Yaffe was asked about the statement during a press conference Thursday morning.

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Yaffe said the province is currently working on more of a targeted approach to tackling a rise in cases.

“We have to look at the benefits and risks when you close facilities, when you close restaurants and other businesses. Obviously, it has an economic impact, a social impact on people. That also affects their health very seriously,” Yaffe said.

“So we are trying to look at the data and say, ‘Where is the transmission happening and how can we reduce the transmission?’ Sometimes it’s not just the places, it’s people’s behaviour in the places as well.”

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Yaffe again called on Ontarians to be vigilant and follow public health guidelines.

Premier Doug Ford was also asked about the statement issued by the Ontario Hospital Association.

“I’ve always said these restaurants are following the procedures and protocols. I think they’re doing a great job,” Ford said.

“But in saying that, we’re going to make sure that we review the numbers and if it’s a huge spike, everything’s on the table.”

Ford said the government wants to avoid shutting down parts of the economy “as long as we possibly can” because doing so would be difficult for a huge number of people.

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