Province tightens restrictions as COVID-19 cases rise

Premier Doug Ford addresses the media on September 22, 2020

The same day the province crossed 100,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the Ontario government is taking action to tighten restrictions in Southwestern Ontario and locking down parts of the GTA.

The Ontario government announced Friday afternoon that the Windsor-Essex region along with Elgin County and Oxford County are being moved into the Orange Control level of the province’s COVID-19 response framework. Chatham-Kent has also been moved up one level from Green to Yellow Control.

These changes will come into effect on Monday at 12:01 a.m.

“With the numbers rising rapidly in certain regions, we have to make the tough, but necessary decisions now to protect our hospitals, long-term care and retirement homes, and every person in this province,” said Premier Doug Ford in a news release. “We cannot afford a province-wide lockdown.”

New rules for areas in the Orange and Yellow-Control levels will include further restrictions for bars and restaurants, recreational facilities, event spaces, and personal care services.

Visitor restrictions will also be implemented at long-term homes in regions that are in the Orange-Restrict level or higher. Only essential visitors, including up to one caregiver per resident, may visit homes in these regions.  As well, long-term care home staff will be tested more frequently for the virus.

For a full list of restrictions for each control level, click here.

The Toronto and Peel regions will see the harshest restrictions starting Monday, as the two areas are moved into lockdown.

“Advising regions to move into a lockdown is not a decision we take lightly, but it is one that is needed to ensure the safety of the people of Peel and Toronto,” said Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health. “Now more than ever, it is critical that all Ontarians continue to follow public health advice to help stop the spread of the virus. Everyone has a role to play to protect each other. We are interdependent and nothing can be done without the commitment of each individual, family and community.”

Similar to what the province saw at the beginning of the pandemic, indoor organized public events or social gatherings will not be allowed under lockdown, except with members of the same household, and outdoor gatherings are limited to a maximum of 10 people. Retail establishments will be permitted to be open for curbside pick-up or delivery only, with exceptions, such as grocery stores and pharmacies. As well, restaurants and bars will only be allowed to provide takeout, drive-thru and delivery.

Government health officials will review data weekly to determine if a region needs to be moved to a higher level. Each region will remain at its current level for at least two COVID-19 incubation periods (28 days) before health officials will consider lowering the control level.

“As public health indicators continue to worsen in regions across the province, particularly in hotspots like Peel and Toronto, it is clear that more needs to be done to limit community spread of COVID-19,” said Christine Elliott, the deputy premier and minister of health. “As we have seen around the world, lockdowns are a difficult but necessary step to stop the spread, safeguard the key services we rely on and protect our health system capacity. With the recent positive news on the development of a vaccine, there is a real hope that we can defeat this deadly virus, but for now, we all must continue to follow public health advice and strictly adhere to the restrictions in place.”

Ontario reported 1,418 new COVID-19 cases and eight deaths on Friday. Of those new cases, 400 were recorded in Peel Region, 393 in Toronto, 168 in York Region, and 77 in Ottawa.

As well, a total of 518 people are in hospital being treated for COVID-19. Of those, 142 are in intensive care and 92 are on ventilators.

The province has recorded a total of 100,790 cases and 3,451 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.