Temporary closure of indoor dining, gyms in Ottawa a test-to see if it helps lower COVID-19 cases: Mayor Watson

OTTAWA — Mayor Jim Watson says it was the Ontario Government’s decision to move Ottawa back to a modified Stage 2, with new restrictions shutting down indoor dining, gyms and movie theatres.

However, the mayor says the new restrictions can serve as a wake-up call to all residents about the seriousness of the COVID-19 situation in Ottawa.

“This 28 day temporary closure of certain businesses presents an opportunity for us to collectively realize the seriousness of what is before us, and for all of us to reset and refocus our actions towards flattening the curve and eliminating the virus,” said Watson on Friday afternoon.

The Ontario Government announced the new measures Friday afternoon for the three COVID-19 hotspots in Ontario: Ottawa, Peel Region and Toronto.

The new measures came after both Watson and Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches had said repeatedly that Ottawa should remain in Stage 3, with indoor dining and other venues staying open.

During a late day media briefing on Friday, Watson told reporters that Dr. Etches recommended on Sept. 30 that Ontario limit the number of patrons at bar and restaurant tables to six and limit capacity, but did not support a full closure of establishments.

CTV News Ottawa asked Watson on Friday what changed over the last 24 hours from when he said on Thursday that he supported bars, restaurants, gyms and other venues staying open despite the rising COVID-19 case count.

“What’s changed is the province has decided now, along with their Chief Medical Officer of Health (Dr. David Williams), that restaurants must close in the three so-called hotspots, Peel Region, Toronto and Ottawa and we will adhere to that,” said Watson, noting Premier Doug Ford called him Friday morning to tell him about the new measures..

“We felt that at the time the restaurant industry by-and-large was doing a very good job of respecting physical distancing, masking their employees, hand sanitizing, limiting it to six people per table. But obviously a lot has changed with this virus. The province has ruled we must follow their regulations, and we’ll fully comply and support those regulations brought down by the province today.”

Watson told reporters the premier did not give him the option to say no.

“I’ve always indicated that we will follow the advice coming from the various tables at the province. We felt that the proposal we put forward of limiting six people at the table and continue to practice physical distancing appeared to be working and that was back on Sept. 30,” said the mayor.

“Fast forward to today and obviously our numbers continue to go up and up, and that’s obviously cause for great concern on our part.”

Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brent Moloughney told reporters Ontario is trying to keep all of us safe.

“I think the province is applying a precautionary approach based on what they’re seeing in the so-called hot spots, in terms of wanting to reduce the risk of transmission,” said Dr. Moloughney.

“I think they’re trying to act in the best interest of the people of those three regions.”

City staff have been directed to look at ways to support businesses in the 2021 City of Ottawa budget. The budget will be tabled on Nov. 4.

 With indoor dining closed at bars and restaurants and other venues shutdown for at least the next 28 days, Watson says he will be keeping an eye on the COVID-19 case count in Ottawa.

“We will use this 28 day period obviously to analyze in fact if the closure of the restaurants has been effective and we start to see the numbers go down significantly then obviously it was the right decision,” said the mayor.

“If not, I’ll have that conversation with the premier because this is an important part of the economy.”

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