ontario bars reopening

Ontario doctors ask Doug Ford to keep bars closed because drunk people can't follow rules

The Ontario Medical Association (OMA) is calling upon Premier Doug Ford to reconsider a part of his government's Stage 3 economic reopening plan that they say could lead to another strict lockdown.

The indoor areas of bars and restaurants are permitted to reopen across much of the province today as 24 public regions get the green light to move past Stage 2, which restricts diners to outdoor patios only. 

Doctors are gravely concerned, however, that bars specifically should remain closed in light of the ongoing global pandemic.

"The evidence from other jurisdictions is that the reopening of bars carries significant risk," said OMA President Dr. Samantha Hill in a news release issued Friday.

"When people consume alcohol, inhibitions are lowered, making them much less likely to practise physical distancing, proper masking behaviours and good hand hygiene. Indoor locations with decreased air ventilation present a particularly high risk of transmission."

Recent history suggests Hill is right — just look at the COVID-19 case surges seen in U.S. states such as California, Florida and Texas after they reopened bars to the public.

The governors of all three states were forced to roll back their reopening plans late last month as a result of case spikes linked to crowded bars and clubs, where the 2019 coronavirus is said to thrive.

Outbreaks tied to indoor bars have also been reported in the U.K., Spain and other U.S. states. One bar in East Lansing, Michigan has been linked to more than 100 cases of the deadly viral illness alone.

In Montreal, where bars have been open since June 25 and case numbers are once again rising, public health officials are urging anyone who has visited any such establishment since Canada Day to get tested for COVID-19.

The OMA stressed in its release today that Ontario could soon follow the same path.

"These outbreaks have led to tougher restrictions and in some cases lockdowns being imposed," wrote the professional association, which represents more than 43,000 physicians and medical students.

"It is important to note that in many of these cases, the bars were following public safety guidelines and yet transmission still occurred."

While they acknowledge that reopening the economy is important for the financial, social and developmental needs of Ontario residents, the group is urging the provincial government to revise its Stage 3 plans with consideration for the risk of disease transmission in different settings.

"We know how important reopening is for business and Ontario's economy and we strongly urge the government to learn from other jurisdiction's mistakes when it comes to reopening bars," said OMA CEO Allan O'Dette on Friday.

"We need to keep moving forward but caution is needed as we can’t afford another full lockdown."

Lead photo by

Alexander Popov

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