New rules from province to help crack down on COVID-19 second wave

Premier Doug Ford during today's press conference at Queen's Park Premier Doug Ford announces public health measure and testing changes during today's press conference at Queen's Park.

The Ontario government said it will be tightening public health measures and improving testing times in response to the second wave of COVID-19 in the coming days.

“Throughout this pandemic, we have made some tough and necessary decisions…after consulting with the chief medical officer and the public health measures table, we will be bringing in more public health restrictions, to try to stop this virus from spreading any further,” said Premier Doug Ford today. “This is serious, we have to offer our full support and every power possible to help our healthcare sector fight this second wave.”

New testing measures coming

“As the weather begins to worsen, we cant have people waiting in the cold, waiting in the rain and snow to get a test, so today we’re announcing new changes to help the assessment centres get ready for the winter,” said Ford.

Changes will be made in assessment centres designed to reduce testing turnaround and improve the safety of staff and patients. These changes include:

  • Moving all testing to appointment-only, effective Oct. 6 and discontinuing all walk-testing services beginning Oct. 4. This is designed to help the labs improve processing times and ensure certainty of appointment during the winter months.
  • Continuing mobile and pop-up testing to help better reach vulnerable populations.
  • Expanding the number of pharmacies offering testing to asymptomatic people.
  • Updating testing guidance for students, children, and their families.  

In the long-term, Ontario will introduce new testing methods and increase testing and processing capacity to 50,000 tests per day by mid-October and 68,000 tests per day by mid-November.

New public health measures

The province will be adding further restrictions across on Ontario and also specifically in areas with higher transmission rates.

In Ontario, face coverings are mandatory in all public indoor settings with limited exceptions and further reopening of businesses is paused for 28 more days (unless permitted to open under the law: O. Reg 364/20). Ontarians are also encouraged to pause social circles and limit contact with people in their own households.

Areas of higher transmission, including Toronto, Peel, and Ottawa, will be seeing restrictions in restaurants, gyms, and event facilities effective Oct. 3 at 12:01 a.m. These include:

  • Restaurants, bars, and other food and drink establishments must limit total facility capacity to 100 patrons, with no more than six patrons per table. Facilities are all required to gather the name and contact info of each person entering the establishment and must monitor those waiting outside to ensure they are maintaining physical distancing.
  • Gym and fitness establishments must limit the total facility capacity to 50, will no more than 10 people allowed per fitness class.
  • Event facilities and banquet halls must limit the total facility capacity to 50 people, with no more than six people per table.

“These are difficult, but necessary decisions that are being made to keep people safe, especially our seniors and vulnerable citizens. Everyone must follow the public health guidelines if we are going to stop the spread and contain the second wave,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.

Ford also reassured Ontarians about the working being done to mitigate the crisis. 

“I want to reassure people, the entire team at Ontario health, the hospitals and public health staff, they’re all working extremely hard,” said Ford. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart to the incredible lab technicians and thank you to everyone who has been working tirelessly, around the clock for months without a break to make sure we can keep testing people each and every day….thanks to them, we have done more testing than all of Canada combined, so please if you know a lab technician, thank them for everything they’ve been doing. By working together and supporting them, we can keep people safe and turn the tide of this battle.”

Learn More:

Original news release
Press conference video
Flu immunization campaign
Ontario offering COVID testing at pharmacies starting Friday
Ontario investing in healthcare
Wage increases for support workers
Niagara Public Health contact tracing info
Niagara Public Health COVID-19 page