Amid an ongoing spike in coronavirus cases, Ontario has announced a provincewide mask policy and new restrictions targeting “hotspot areas.”
Masks will now be mandatory throughout the province in all indoor public areas, on transit, and in workplaces where physical distancing isn’t possible, effective at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, Premier Doug Ford announced during a press conference Friday.
Ford also announced restrictions targeting “hotspot areas” — Toronto, Ottawa, and Peel Region.
Ontario reported 732 new coronavirus cases on Friday marking the largest single-day increase on record, with most cases in those areas. However, officials said 73 of the cases were from the spring and summer in Toronto and were included in the report due to a data cleaning initiative.
Ford said as of 12:01 a.m. Saturday, bars, restaurants and nightclubs in the “hotspot” zones will be limited to a capacity of 100 people under provincial regulations and no more than six people will be allowed at each table. Each customer’s contact information must also be collected for contact tracing.
Banquet halls and event spaces will be limited to a capacity of 50 people and no more than six people per table.
Gyms will also need to be limited to 50 people and classes can include no more than 10.
As has been the case for several months, physical distancing must be maintained in the facilities.
“Earlier this week, we received a real wake-up call,” Ford said.
“We saw that if we don’t act now to halt these trends, we can see a thousand new cases a day by mid-October.”
Toronto already passed some new measures earlier this week — including a cap of 75 people in restaurants and bars, as well as tables limiting patrons to six, so the new provincial measures won’t mean many additional changes for those establishments in the city. However, the provincial rules take effect a few days sooner.
The city’s medical officer of health Dr. Eileen de Villa is calling for even more restrictions, including the prohibition of indoor dining which she says must be done by the province due to her having “limited authority.”
Meanwhile, Ford also advised Ontarians to limit close contact with anyone outside of their household.
“This will be especially important to consider as we look forward to Thanksgiving next weekend,” Ford said.
It marks a pause in the social circle policy, according to a government news release — officials are now advising Ontarians to maintain two metres of distance between themselves and anyone from outside of their household. If someone lives alone, they may still wish to have close contact with another household, officials said.
Ford also announced that all assessment centres in the province will be moving to appointment-based testing only. The province is currently dealing with a huge backlog of tests — that figure currently stands at 90,513.
Appointment-only testing will take effect on Tuesday, though officials said that assessment centres will stop accepting walk-ins on Sunday. For the assessment centres that are already appointment-only, testing will continue.
Earlier Friday, sources told Global News that the government was considering implementing a colour-coded COVID alert system, similar to the one in Quebec. Ford confirmed that the government was looking into it, but decided against it.