Woman wears a mask while aboard a TTC streetcar in Toronto, Canada
Juan Rojas/Unsplash

Toronto, in Red Zone, Moves to Extend COVID-19 Restrictions

Toronto’s top doctor announced on Tuesday that the city will move into the red zone of Ontario’s COVID-19 tiered shutdown system and will tighten restrictions even further, including postponing the resumption of indoor dining until at least mid-December.

Toronto Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa announced the restrictions as the city recorded its highest number of new COVID-19 infections on Tuesday, with 533 new cases in the previous 24-hour period. De Villa also suggested that all residents restrict all social gatherings with people who live outside their own home, just as the city moves into the red phase of the province’s shutdown system on Nov. 14, the last step before a full lockdown.

The additional restrictions she announced also include a ban on indoor fitness classes, with gyms only allowed to operate if there are fewer than 10 people indoors at one time. Toronto will also require the continued closure of meeting and event spaces, including casinos and bingo halls, among other gaming and entertainment establishments like movie theatres.

“I know the vast majority of people support doing everything we can in order to confront COVID-19 and get our lives back to normal,” Toronto Mayor John Tory said on Tuesday at a press conference. “We need your help right now to do just that.”

De Villa said the restrictions are expected to remain in place for 28 days, starting on Nov. 14, meaning the earliest businesses could reopen is on Dec. 12. The red zone of Ontario’s COVID-19 framework does not require indoor dining to close, but Toronto has decided to do so. “I want to warn you in the plainest possible terms, COVID-19 is out there at levels that we have not seen before,” de Villa said on Tuesday at a press conference. “The trend is upward.”

“What’s best for our local economy is also what is best for the health and safety of our residents: Businesses can’t thrive when COVID-19 is surging,” said Toronto City Councillor and Chair of the Toronto Board of Health Joe Cressy on Tuesday at the same press conference. “Business owners and employees deserve to have a reopening that doesn’t put themselves or their customers at risk and that’s sustainable.”

"I recognize that these actions will have economic impacts and I am truly sorry for this, I really am. However, in my professional opinion, the greatest harm would be to allow COVID-19 to continue to spread at this rate,” de Villa said.

Over the past four days, the city added nearly 2,000 new cases, according to the city’s COVID-19 database. Toronto’s COVID-19 test positivity rate has also spiked to 5.9 per cent. “You should assume it is everywhere,” de Villa said. “Without proper precautions and protections, you are at risk of infection.”

Peel Region is the only other region in the province to have been placed in the red category of Ontario’s tiered system. Peel Region Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence Loh announced the restrictions over the weekend, adding further restrictions on indoor dining and gym activity and calls for residents not to interact with people outside their households.

“Our hospitals are transferring patients all over Ontario,” said Loh on Monday. “That means our healthcare system in Peel is at capacity, beyond capacity.”