02 October 2020The Ontario government has announced it is tightening public health measures in order to control the spread of COVID-19. The new measures will come into effect on Saturday, October 3, 2020, at 12:01 a.m.
The amendments are listed below, but some of the new public health measures are being restricted to hot-spot areas in Toronto, Peel and Ottawa (these are identified under the "New Public Health Measures" section).
New measures include:
- Extending the pause on any further reopening of businesses, facilities, and organizations for an additional 28 days, unless already permitted to open under O. Reg 364/20;
- Pausing social circles and advising that all Ontarians allow close contact only with people living in their own household and maintain two metres physical distancing from everyone else. Individuals who live alone may consider having close contact with another household; and
- Finalizing additional guidance for seniors (70 and over) on how to minimize their risk of acquiring COVID-19, including for upcoming annual gatherings such as Thanksgiving and Remembrance Day.
Other Public Health Measures
As the number of new cases continues to rise, the province is taking decisive action to prevent and stop the spread of the virus and avoid future lockdowns. These new restrictions were adopted through the amended order O. Reg 364/20 (Rules for Areas in Stage 3 under the Reopening Ontario [A Flexible Response to COVID-19] Act, 2020). They include mandating the use of face coverings in all public indoor settings across the province, such as businesses, facilities and workplaces, with limited exemptions, including corrections and developmental services.
Targeted measures will also be implemented in Toronto, Peel and Ottawa as a result of their higher than average rates of transmission. These include:
- Setting an indoor capacity limit to restrict occupancy at restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments (including nightclubs) to the number of patrons who can maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from every other patron, to a maximum of 100 patrons; permitting no more than six patrons per table; requiring operators to ensure patrons lining up or congregating outside of their establishment maintain physical distancing; and mandating that the name and contact information for each patron be collected;
- Restricting group exercise classes at gyms and other fitness settings to 10 individuals, as well as restricting the total number of people allowed at these facilities to a maximum of 50; and
- Setting a limit on the number of people allowed at meeting and event facilities, including banquet halls, to six people per table and 50 people per facility.
New Measures for Testing
The government is taking additional steps to respond to the second wave of COVID-19 and prevent and stop the spread of the virus, while safely keeping schools and businesses open. These include:
- Transitioning to appointment-based testing at Ontario assessment centres beginning Tuesday, October 6, 2020, providing certainty to patients as to when they can receive a test during the cold winter months and allowing assessment centres to conduct enhanced screening to ensure adherence to the guidelines released on September 24, 2020;
- Beginning on Sunday, October 4, 2020, assessment centres will discontinue walk-in testing services, so the province's lab network can make significant progress in processing tests and to allow assessment centres the necessary time to reset, deep clean and ensure preparedness for the new appointment-based model;
- Continuing mobile testing and pop-up testing centres to reach vulnerable populations and provide targeted testing for long-term care, congregate care, and other vulnerable populations;
- Expanding the number of pharmacies where people with no symptoms within provincial testing guidance can get tested; and
- Implementing updated testing guidance for children to help parents determine when it is most appropriate for students, children and their families to seek a test for COVID-19.
- Increasing testing and processing capacity to 50,000 tests per day by mid-October and 68,000 tests per day by mid-November; and
- Introducing new testing methods once they are approved by Health Canada, including point of care testing and antigen testing.