Ontario is imposing new restrictions on Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Indoor dining at restaurants and bars will be prohibited, while gyms, movie theatres and casinos will be closed. The measures go into effect Saturday and will be in place for at least 28 days.
The government is also asking people in those areas to leave their homes only for essential purposes. Schools and places of worship remain open.
The new restrictions come as Ontario marked a record 939 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, most of them in Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa. Those regions have consistently reported the majority of new cases in recent weeks.
The government said if current trends continue, the province could experience “worst-case scenarios” seen in northern Italy and New York City earlier in the pandemic.
Ontario’s chief medical officer of health said the sharp increase in daily case numbers was very concerning and action was required, particularly in settings where mask-wearing and physical distancing is more difficult.
Dr. David Williams said the new measures will take the three hot spot regions back to a “modified Stage Two” of the province’s pandemic response plan, which saw restrictions on non-essential businesses earlier this year.
He said that if people return to following public health guidelines well, the province can once again flatten the curve.
“We’ve done this before, I think we can do it again,” he said.
Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, who is advising the province on its pandemic response, said taking the targeted action could mean avoiding broader province-wide restrictions down the road.
“Jurisdictions that are intervening early are getting better control of the pandemic,” he said.
The province said it is also suspending wedding receptions temporarily in the three hot spot regions, starting Tuesday. Receptions scheduled this weekend may proceed in line with current public health measures, it said.
Personal care services where face coverings must be removed will also be prohibited under the new restrictions.
Last week, health officials warned that Ontario could see 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 a day by mid-October, and that rising infections among young people were driving the spread of the virus among all demographics.
Groups like the Ontario Hospital Association and Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario have been calling for targeted restrictions in hot spot regions.
Toronto’s medical officer of health has also recommended more stringent measures and last week urged the province to take action in that city.
OHA president Anthony Dale warned this week that a surge in COVID-19 cases could overwhelm the province’s hospitals and limit their ability to perform during the pandemic.
Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 were up Friday, with 225 people admitted, compared with 192 a day earlier. The province said 47 people are in intensive care and 29 are on a ventilator.
The province also reported five new deaths due to the virus on Friday.
The government said it has a backlog of 58,173 tests, and has conducted 44,914 tests since the last daily report.
Ontario also reported 56 new COVID-19 cases related to schools on Friday, including at least 32 among students. Those bring the number of schools with a reported case to 429 out of Ontario’s 4,828 publicly funded schools.
The latest figures bring the total of COVID-19 cases in Ontario to 57,681, with 2,997 deaths, and 49,032 cases resolved.
Shawn Jeffords , The Canadian Press
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 9, 2020.