Health Unit targets London region eateries, salons and gyms with sweeping new health orders

Health authorities have issued sweeping new health orders for restaurants, salons, gyms and other personal service providers that take effect this weekend to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

New rules come as colder season pushes more people to congregate in confined spaces

New health orders for restaurants, salons, gyms and other personal service providers take effect this weekend, in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus. (Colin Butler/ CBC News)

Health authorities in London issued a new set of sweeping orders Wednesday aimed at the region's salons, spas, bars, restaurants and fitness centres in an effort to curb any future spread of the coronavirus. 

The orders come after COVID-19 case counts have been rising for weeks, with new outbreaks recorded almost daily in the region's schools, long-term care homes and retail operations, set against a seven-day average of 753 daily cases at the provincial level.

The new orders issued for the London region take effect Saturday and seek to ensure people wear face coverings and limit the number of people who can congregate indoors at all times. 

The new emphasis on strict indoor protocols in public places comes at a time when medical officials are worried the virus could thrive in the colder seasons as people move indoors into more confined spaces. 

Any businesses or facility found guilty of breaking the new rules could receive a maximum $25,000 fine. 

While there was no official timeline for how long the new measures will be in place, health officials say they will reassess the situation periodically over the next few weeks.

Many of the new rules target fitness centres specifically, and the restrictions are likely tied to the largest outbreak to date in the Hamilton area, where 61 people were infected with the virus in an outbreak linked to a downtown spin studio

Fitness centres

The Spin Co studio in Hamilton is the site of that city's largest outbreak. New rules now apply to Middlesex-London spin studios and gyms. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The new rules for the London region's fitness centres apply to all gyms, health clubs, community centres, arenas, exercise, dance and yoga studios. They state: 

  • The number of people in any class or organized activity cannot exceed 10 people, including staff; all participants must remain three metres apart. At indoor soccer pads or ice rinks, participants must be nine metres apart.
  • Instructors of any indoor class must wear a face covering or provide instruction virtually. Instructors should also wear microphones to reduce the need to shout. Participants should be discouraged from singing along or shouting back.
  • Anyone indoors must maintain a physical distance of two metres, unless in a class. If in a class the distance is three metres apart. 
  • Steam rooms, saunas, whirlpools and bath houses must be closed. 
  • Heating, venting and air conditioning must be maintained in line with provincial standards during the pandemic.

Personal care

A set of pandemic rules greets clients right in the window of the front door of a hair salon on Talbot Street in downtown London. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

The new rules for the London region's personal care centres includes all salons, barber shops, manicure and pedicure services, spas, tattoo parlours, piercing, tanning and aesthetic services. The rules say: 

  • Personal services cannot be provided without face coverings. 
  • Any employee who cannot wear a face covering cannot have direct contact with customers. 
  • Locker rooms, change rooms and showers must be closed with the exception of washrooms and first aid stations. 
  • Oxygen bars, saunas, steam rooms, whirlpools and bath houses must be closed. 
  • Baths, hot tubs and sensory deprivation pods can only be used with a prescription from a regulated health provider. 

Bars and restaurants

Many London bars and restaurants, such as J. Dee's Market Grill, were already voluntarily following the strict indoor protocols issued by health authorities Wednesday. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

The new rules for the London region's eateries includes all bars, restaurants, food trucks, concession stands, banquet halls and any other food and drink establishments. The rules establish that: 

  • No more than six people can be seated at a table indoors or outdoors. 
  • Patrons must be seated at all times, with the exception of entering or exiting the establishment, going to the washroom or placing, picking up or paying for an order.
  • All establishments must record the names and contact information and all patrons and keep those records for up to one month and only disclose those records to a medical officer of health. 

What London businesses are saying

Tyler Doig is the head coach and owner of Revolution Sport Conditioning in downtown London, Ont. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

Many London business owners CBC News spoke with Wednesday said that, out of an abundance of caution, they were already following many of the new rules.

"Technically they don't really affect us too much," said Tyler Doig, the head coach and owner of Revolution Sport Conditioning, a fitness studio in downtown London. 

Doig said his business already requires masks and face shields inside the gym and the number of people allowed inside the studio is limited to four at one time. 

"We're doing that to be proactive and to make sure everyone is safe in the gym," he said. "We're already doing what they're asking of us." 

Karla McGilton is the manager of Entrenous Salon on Richmond Street. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

A few steps away, at Entrenous hair salon on Richmond Street, manager Karla McGilton said her employees already follow the new rules put in place by health authorities Wednesday. 

"We're in contact with the Middlesex Health Unit weekly just to be proactive," she said, noting the new rules are likely aimed at the few personal care businesses in the city that aren't being safe and risk affecting those who are. 

"It's a snowball effect, we don't want to go back into stage two, or stage one, so I think if we all did our part and follow these rules ,we're going to get ahead of the game." 

That same sentiment is echoed by J. Dee's Market Grill owner Craig Paulger, who said while the rules are restrictive, they are in the public interest. 

Paulger's restaurant already has Plexiglass between tables and all around the bar, separating customers and staff.

"We are already in compliance with all those things. I'm relieved to hear the regulations aren't more severe," he said. "We operate for the good health of everyone."


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