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Toronto restaurants won't reopen for indoor dining this weekend after all

Indoor bars and restaurants, thousands of which were slated to reopen in Toronto this weekend after 35 days of forced closure, will sadly remain closed for at least another month.

It's sad news for many in the city who miss dining in (as opposed to in front of) their favourite haunts, without the need for blankets and space heaters, but public health officials say the harsh move is necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Toronto's Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, confirmed this afternoon that the city's latest per positivity figure is 5.9 per cent — well above the "high alert" threshold of 2.5 per cent.

As such, and given the fact that more than 500 of Ontario's record-high 1,388 new cases were attributed to Toronto this morning, de Villa and Mayor John Tory have decided not to reopen bars, restaurants, casinos and other impacted businesses as planned on November 14.

Yes, we'll still leave the province's old "modified Stage 2" framework, but Toronto will no longer go into the "Orange-Restrict" level of Ontario's new colour-coded coronavirus restriction system.

Instead, we'll join Peel Region in the red zone this Saturday at 12:01 a.m. — and then some.

Ontario's own rules state that gyms, restaurants, cinemas and everything else restricted under Stage 2 may reopen at the "Red-Control" level, but with maximum limits of 10 people per building indoors.

The new "enhanced" Toronto-specific restrictions announced by de Villa and Tory today — which you can see in full right here — allow gyms to reopen (without fitness classes) and state that social gatherings should be restricted to people you live with, among other things.

One bullet point that will surely stand out for many, though, reads: "Indoor dining will remain closed." 

Ouch, but it makes sense when explained by public health officials.

"COVID-19 is spreading at an alarming rate that we haven't seen before in our city," said de Villa on Tuesday of the new protections. "Given the circumstances, as your Medical Officer of Health, I am using my authority to take actions that are necessary given what our city and our residents are facing."

"These decisions aren't ones I take lightly," continued Toronto's top doctor. "However, in my professional opinion they are needed to reduce virus spread, save lives, protect our health system for those who need it most, and mitigate broader health, social and economic impacts."

In other words, better this now than a full-on lockdown that would hurt the economy even more down the line.

Fortunately, heated patios continue to spring up all over the city, and many restaurants remain open for take-out and delivery. Your options for the latter are pretty much endless in this food-friendly city, but last call for alcohol at bars (even on patios) will still be 9 p.m. for the forseeable future.

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez at Boonsik

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