A series of more stringent regulations for business to combat the COVID-19 pandemic have been passed by Toronto city council on Wednesday.
Following the Ontario Government’s announcement that the city will be moving forward to Stage 3 in the Province’s re-opening plan this Friday, July 31, council approved a series recommendations from Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, which set out additional public health and safety measures in order to prevent a spike or new increase in COVID-19 cases.
“We’ve made excellent progress of stopping the spread of COVID-19 and we most certainly don’t want to go backwards,” Mayor John Tory said during a press conference. “Open your doors carefully, I’m saying this to businesses and people.”
While happy to have more of the city open for business, he advised caution when it comes to the new rules.
The new measures approved by city council include new requirements for bars and restaurants, as they have been linked to new outbreaks in other cities.
According to the city, the requirements, which are unique to Toronto, include capacity and table size limits to ensure physical distancing indoors; staff screening; mandatory record-keeping of all patrons, which will be available to Toronto Public Health if needed; and requiring that patrons must remain seated at all times, except for going to or from the washroom or paying.
Council also approved the creation of a temporary by-law mandating that face masks or coverings must be worn in the common areas of apartment and condominium buildings.
“The businesses and services able to open in Stage 3 are essential to helping our economy recover, but not if they don’t follow the rules,” the mayor said, adding that “COVID-19 doesn’t take a summer vacation.”
In a statement, Toronto Board of Health Chair and councillor, Joe Cressy said that the city has come together and made tremendous sacrifices to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“Our collective efforts have been successful, not only at flattening the curve and protecting our health care system, but also in getting daily case counts down to the single digits. The challenge now is to make sure that this hard work is not squandered as we continue to reopen businesses and services in our city,” said Cressy.
“Getting to Stage 3 is an important achievement for our city, and was only possible thanks to the commitment and dedication of residents across Toronto. However, we need to remember that our work is not over yet.”
He added that COVID-19 continues to pose a significant risk until there is a widely-available treatment or vaccine.
“Increasingly, Toronto Public Health data shows that COVID-19 is exposing the deep inequalities present in our city, as this virus is disproportionately impacting people with lower incomes, who are racialized or visible minorities that live in overcrowded housing and work in front-line and/or precarious workplaces,” said Cressy.
“These are the people that we have to keep in mind as we cautiously move forward into the next stage of this pandemic.”
According to the province, stage 3 allows for more workplaces and venues to reopen, as permitted gatherings increase to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.
In this next stage, dine-in restaurants, bars, gyms, fitness centres, live shows, performing arts centres, casinos, concert venues, recreational facilities, team sports, fundraisers, fairs, festivals or open houses, and tour and guide services can reopen.
However, in Toronto, festivals have been cancelled until September 30.