Ontario and B.C. are imposing new restrictions to deal with spikes in COVID-19 cases. Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press
Ontario is limiting indoor and outdoor gatherings in COVID-19 hot spots, as Canadians brace for a second wave and the restrictions that may come with it.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced Thursday that Toronto, Peel, and Ottawa will be restricting indoor and outdoor gatherings to 10 people and 25 people, respectively, starting Friday. The rules do not apply to staffed businesses such as restaurants, gyms, and movie theatres.
The new limitations come as COVID-19 cases in the province have spiked and concerns mount over children returning to school. The province reported 293 new cases on Thursday; new cases had dropped below 100 in August. Ontario also revealed Thursday that there are 62 cases in schools, half of which come from the Toronto area, CityNews reports.
Facing an outbreak, Western University in London, Ontario, has ceased its recreational and athletic activities.
B.C., which was lauded early on for its handling of the pandemic, has also implemented new restrictions to deal with a rise in cases. The province announced 122 new cases on Wednesday and 10 more intensive care hospitalizations than last week.
“Large gatherings have been a steady source of transmission. However, many of the new cases we are seeing in the past weeks are from small gatherings where people see different groups of friends on different days—inadvertently spreading the virus to many people,” the province’s health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix wrote in a joint statement.
B.C. recently shut down banquet halls and nightclubs and restricted last call at bars to 10 p.m.
Dr. Issac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital, described Ontario’s actions as a “smart move.” However, he said it’s hard to know if the new rules around gatherings will be enforced.
“I think we also have to be realistic. Is this going to solve all our problems? No it probably won’t, but it probably will provide some incremental level of safety,” he said.
He also said B.C.’s restrictions on bars, which also include lowering the volume of music so that people don’t have to shout, make more sense than an outright ban—for now.
“Bars and restaurants in principle should be adhering to public health guidelines of physical distancing, hand hygiene, and of course mask wearing when people are not seated at their table.” But he said that should be reassessed for places associated with multiple outbreaks.
Lorian Hardcastle, an assistant professor specializing in health law and policy at the University of Calgary, said part of the reason behind the increasing restrictions is that governments are prioritizing keeping schools open.
“One of the ways we’re able to keep schools open is by keeping the community spread low,” she said, and that family gatherings are a source of a lot of community transmission.
Bogoch said reducing class size is one of the best ways to ensure physical distancing. Ontario’s refusal to reduce class sizes has been one of the biggest points of contention around schools reopening.
Hardcastle said governments are also wary of an increase in hospitalizations, which is in part what led to so many deaths in countries like Italy, where doctors had to prioritize who would be given access to ventilators.
As cold and flu season approaches, Hardcastle said it’s possible stay-at-home orders will return. People who get sick could be more susceptible to COVID-19, she said, but it will also be difficult to know if someone is sick with a cold or with the virus.
Bogoch said Ontario’s regional approach is smart because, “it doesn’t necessarily make sense to have the same restrictions with people having vastly different experiences.”
But Hardcastle said there are pros and cons to taking a regional approach, as people may inadvertently break rules because the rules aren’t the same everywhere.
She said some regions that don’t have mandatory mask orders may impose them.
Hardcastle said in order to avoid going back to harsh lockdowns, people can be proactive in limiting their social interactions, even if there isn’t a law in place.
“People should be thinking about the size of cohort they associated with and what group of friends they’re going to only associate with,” she said.
Bogoch said it’s up to citizens, businesses, and governments to operate in as safe a manner as possible and avoid another strict lockdown.
“The ball is in our court,” he said.
As for winter approaching, he noted that in many parts of the country, it’s possible to be outside if you’re dressed for it.
“You can still be outside in the Canadian winter. Just be prepared for it.”
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Via Vice News