Ontario tightens rules on bars and restaurants, closes strip clubs

Ontario is tightening rules aimed at curbing its recent surge in COVID-19 cases — moving last call at bars and restaurants to 11 p.m., and closing all strip clubs.

Bars and restaurants must close at midnight, except for takeout and delivery, and businesses must screen anyone who wishes to enter the premises, the province said Friday. 

“Over the past five weeks, Ontario has experienced an increase in the rate of new COVID-19 cases,” the province said in a news release.

“Private social gatherings continue to be a significant source of transmission in many local communities, along with outbreak clusters in restaurants, bars, and other food and drink establishments, including strip clubs, with most cases in the 20-39 age group.”

The orders take effect at 12:01 a.m. ET Saturday. The province said it will work with municipalities to ramp up enforcement. 

Premier Doug Ford said Ontario mayors asked for the measures.

“It’s precautionary … it won’t be forever,” Ford said at his Friday news conference.

WATCH | Premier explains Ontario’s new restrictions:

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announces new provincewide restrictions and public health measures, including an earlier last call at bars and restaurants.  1:07

Meanwhile, Ontario reported 409 new cases of COVID-19 for a second straight day on Friday, with about three-quarters of them in the Toronto area. Toronto itself saw 204 new cases, while Peel Region reported 66 and York had 33. Ottawa registered another 40.

Durham and Halton regions were the only other public health units with double-digit increases in newly confirmed infections, with 12 each.

Some Ontario pharmacies on Friday started appointment-only COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic people, under certain conditions.

Ford said that next week, up to 18 more pharmacies in southwestern Ontario and Niagara Region will start testing, in places including St. Catharines-Niagara Falls, London, Windsor, Sarnia, Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge.

The province is also spending millions of dollars to fix backlogs for surgeries and other procedures that were pushed back because of COVID-19,  and is building surge capacity in hospitals, Ford said.

“It will help us reduce the surgery backlog, while still ensuring patients will receive the care they need,” he said.

The province on Thursday updated its COVID-19 testing strategy — shifting the focus back to symptomatic people only, with some exceptions, to relieve the burden on labs. 

Ontario has seen a total of 48,905 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of those, about 86.2 per cent are resolved. Another 283 were marked resolved in Frtiday’s report. 

There are currently some 3,899 active infections of the coronavirus provincewide, the most since June 8.

Public health units with more than 100 active cases include:

  • Toronto: 1,242.
  • Peel Region: 764.
  • Ottawa: 619.
  • York Region: 323.
  • Waterloo Region: 146.
  • Halton Region: 125.

Further, the number of people in Ontario hospitals with confirmed cases continues its slow but steady climb and now sits at 88. Twenty-five patients are being treated in intensive care, while 13 of those are on ventilators.

Also Friday, the Ontario NDP updated its COVID-19 recovery plan, called “Save Main Street.”

The Official Opposition says the Progressive Conservative government has been slow to dole out billions in federal relief funds in the province. Among other things, the NDP is calling on the government to:

  • Ban all evictions, lockouts and threats of eviction by commercial landlords until the pandemic is over.
  • Implement a utility payment freeze for small- and medium-sized businesses.
  • Offer a monthly, emergency 75 per cent commercial rent subsidy to small- and medium-sized businesses for the length of the pandemic.
  • Create a safe reopening and remote-work setup fund for small businesses.
  • Institute guaranteed paid sick days for all workers, including those in low-wage and precarious employment.
  • Cap school class sizes at 15 students.
  • Institute an auto-insurance grace period.

Still have questions about COVID-19? These CBC News stories will help.

Is another lockdown coming in Ontario? What do we know about the Ford government’s fall plan?

CBC Queen’s Park reporter Mike Crawley obtained a draft copy of the plan

What’s the latest on where I should get tested?

It’s confusing, but here’s an explainer complete with a flow chart

What’s the most recent guidance on mask use?

Reporter Lauren Pelley took a look at what the experts are advising

What should I do about my COVID bubble?

With cases going up, even small gatherings are getting riskier

Who is getting COVID-19?

CBC News crunched the data from across Canada to get the clearest picture possible

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