British Columbia has ordered nightclubs and banquet halls to close, with provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry citing such facilities as a major source of coronavirus transmission since the province allowed them to reopen.
B.C. has logged 429 new COVID-19 cases since Friday. The province also recorded two additional deaths, both of them in long-term care homes. In a single week in late August, regional health authority Vancouver Coastal Health announced public exposures at three separate nightclubs on Vancouver’s Granville Street.
“Despite weeks of effort by public health teams, these venues are creating significant risk to everyone in B.C., and making it more challenging to protect those who are most vulnerable to serious illness,” Dr. Henry said Tuesday at a news conference.
Ontario said Tuesday it is pausing any further reopening for at least a month, as classes resume and coronavirus cases rise in Toronto, Ottawa and Peel Region, an area west of Toronto that includes Mississauga. Ontario has seen an uptick in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, reporting 375 new cases of COVID-19 over the past two days.
The pause in reopening means social bubbles of 10 people and gathering limits – already at 100 people for outdoor events and 50 for indoor, with physical distancing – won’t be further expanded. It also keeps those same gathering limits in team sports and sporting events in the province.
“The latest trends in numbers have raised some concern, especially as we begin to reopen schools and postsecondary institutions," said Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott. “Taking a pause in further reopening at this time will help us to avoid returning to broad-scale closures and shutdowns."
In B.C., Dr. Henry said inadvertent transmission, much of it among young people, was more likely in crowded settings where alcohol is present.
The revised health orders for British Columbia include a 10 p.m. cut-off for alcohol sales at bars and restaurants. They must close by 11 p.m. unless they are serving food.
The new rules also require music and other background noise, such as televisions, to be no louder than normal conversation, so that people will be less likely to shout and potentially transmit the virus.
Jeff Guignard, executive director of B.C.'s Alliance of Beverage Licensees, representing pubs, bars, and nightclubs in the province, said Tuesday’s announcement would result in job losses and failed businesses.
“There’s a lot of frustration, and deep, deep disappointment. A lot of people said, ‘I think this is the death of our industry,’ ” he said in an interview.
Mr. Guignard said a recent survey of ABLE members indicated about half the industry felt they would have to close their operations by the end of the year.
The Hospitality Vancouver Association, representing businesses in Vancouver’s busy downtown Granville Entertainment District area, called the news “incredibly disappointing.”
In a statement, spokesperson Laura Ballance said many members have worked very hard "and at “considerable expense” to implement mandatory and recommended COVID-19 protocols to reopen during the pandemic.
“The vast majority of those establishments have been operating very effectively, responsibly and safely since reopening and our already beleaguered sector will likely face significant permanent closures as a result of today’s announcement.”
But Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association, said his organization “can live with this and contribute to helping the province.”
“We will, however, continue to need federal wage and rent support and provincial support on liquor pricing and liquor delivery,” he said.
Dr. Henry said the province needs to focus on getting students back to school and people back to work, which means cutting down on social interactions.
“Yes, I do think these are necessary actions right now,” she added. “We do it for things we think will make a difference. It became apparent that some venues were really high-risk environments.”
In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford said the increase in cases is “very concerning” and blamed large gatherings, including weddings and parties, as well as people who aren’t quarantining when they come to Canada. But he said he’s not yet considering rolling back restrictions. “We aren’t there yet. But if it just keeps creeping and creeping, and people are ignoring the guidelines ...”
Ontario’s associate medical officer of health, Barbara Yaffe, said new cases are attributed to outbreaks at a church in Toronto, a wedding in York Region and smaller outbreaks at workplaces across the province. She said there have been several cases among school staff reported by public health units, but the cases were acquired in the community, not in schools.
Ryan Mallough, director of provincial affairs for Ontario at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said most small businesses are already open as part of Stage 3 in the reopening plan. But he said the pause will affect businesses such as bowing alleys – still limited to the 50 people – and the outdoor “pick your own fruit” industry, which is pushing for expanded limits outside.
Also on Tuesday, Mr. Ford welcomed Quebec Premier François Legault to a special Ontario-Quebec government summit at a hotel near Pearson International Airport in Mississauga.
The two leaders and their key cabinet ministers were to continue holding discussions Wednesday – with health protocols in place – on restarting their economies while preparing for a potential second wave of COVID-19. Quebec reported 163 new cases on Tuesday, with 216 the previous day.
Mr. Ford and Mr. Legault, who aides say have a strong relationship, were to head with their wives to Mr. Ford’s house in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke on Wednesday evening for what the Ontario Premier’s office says will be a physically distanced private dinner.
Mr. Legault is poised to take over as chair of the provincial premiers' Council of the Federation from Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe. Later this month, the council is due to meet, and Mr. Legault and Mr. Ford are eager to present a united front to the federal government as wrangling begins over a second round of funding for pandemic recovery efforts, infrastructure and health-care funding.
One of Mr. Legault’s cabinet ministers, François Bonnardel, will have to miss the Ontario-Quebec gathering because he is among a handful of high-profile Quebec politicians who had to go into self-isolation after Longueuil Mayor Sylvie Parent tested positive for COVID-19. They had been in contact with Ms. Parent, or crossed paths with someone who did.
With a report from Tu Thanh Ha in Toronto
The Canadian Press
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