Stop serving customers except for takeout and delivery, Toronto health officials tell restaurants, bars
Some evidence of 'community transmission' in Toronto, medical officer of health says
Toronto's medical officer of health is calling on all restaurants and bars to stop serving customers food and drink inside their establishments and offer only takeout and delivery instead amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
Dr. Eileen de Villa is also urging all nightclubs, movie theatres and concert venues to close temporarily at midnight on Monday to help stop the spread of the virus.
De Villa said restaurants and bars that offer takeout and delivery should continue to do so because that would provide residents with "food options" but would serve to limit interactions between people.
She noted at a news conference on Monday that many restaurants, bars, nightclubs and theatres have already closed their doors to the "seated public" in response to the outbreak. She said she is encouraging the rest of the industry to follow suit.
If businesses do not comply with this recommendation, de Villa told reporters that they could be subject to orders under Section 22 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act.
De Villa said the drastic steps are needed to limit the spread of the virus and its impact on the city. Social distancing is crucial right now, she added.
"I believe these unprecedented public health recommendations are necessary in order to protect the health of all Toronto residents," de Villa said in a news release on Monday.
De Villa said the number of cases is on the rise in Ontario and further action is needed.
"We have recently seen a significant increase in cases of COVID-19, some of which are unlinked, and thus indicate community transmission. We continue to pursue rigorous investigations of these cases and their contacts."
"Every opportunity to avoid interactions with others helps to prevent the spread of this disease. Every interaction avoided helps to flatten the curve. So, if you can, stay home, help out our city by reducing your interaction with others. Every little bit counts."
In a news release, the city said: "This is a critical time to flatten the growth curve of COVID-19 in our community and Toronto Public Health, along with the City of Toronto, is committed to doing everything possible based on the expert advice of public health professionals to stop the spread of COVID-19."
Matthew Pegg, head of the city's office of emergency management, said city employees who are not sick, who do not have any symptoms and who have not returned from travel in the last two weeks are being urged to continue to go to work. Pegg is also Toronto Fire Chief.
"The city is working flat out to protect the people of Toronto through this and we will not stop. We are a strong and resilient city and we will get through this," Pegg said.
"The city as an employer is working through processes to ensure that we have the right balance of employees available to service the public while recognizing that we too need to practise social distancing as recommended by Toronto Public Health," Pegg said.
Pegg reminded residents that Toronto Water, Toronto Hydro, garbage collection, the TTC, Toronto road operations are continuing to operate, although many city services, including city-run March Break camps, have shut down.
He also urged residents not to call 911 for information about COVID-19 because the emergency line needs to be free for real emergencies.
In a news release, the city said 311 and the Toronto Public Health hotline are receiving many calls. The city is urging residents to go to this website, which includes a full list of city cancellations and closures due to COVID-19.