TORONTO (Reuters) – Indoor dining and gyms in Canada’s financial capital, Toronto, will reopen on Nov. 14, pending confirmation from public health experts on Friday, Premier Doug Ford said on Tuesday, while the country’s top doctor for the first time recommended the use of three-layer non-medical masks.
The announcement by Ford was part of a reopening framework unveiled on Tuesday and comes as COVID-19 case counts rise in the province as in much of Canada. But recent modeling out of Ontario suggests the surge will not overwhelm hospital capacity in the country’s most populous province.
Ontario prohibited indoor dining and closed fitness facilities on Oct. 10 for 28 days.
Canada’s seven-day rolling average of new cases now exceeds 2,900, federal chief medical officer Theresa Tam said at a news conference in Ottawa on Tuesday.
Tam for the first time recommended that people wear three-layer non-medical masks, with a middle filter layer, to help prevent the spread of the disease.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said people needed to act now to tamp down the spread of a second wave of COVID-19 before it gets out of hand.
“Right now, this virus is being given the chance to spread,” Trudeau said. “The numbers are showing us that our window to turn this around is closing.”
Ford said the framework will serve as an “early warning system” that will prevent the government from imposing more restrictive measures and provide more certainty for businesses and families to handle the second wave.
The province will use metrics including weekly case counts per 100,000 people, capacity of hospitals and contact tracing systems to evaluate whether to move a region from one restriction stage to the next.
Several regions of Ontario, including the national capital of Ottawa, will move into the Restrict category, on Nov. 7, Ford said, as long as the province’s public health experts approve. Restrict will limit the number of people permitted in – but not ban – indoor dining, fitness facilities, casinos and movie theaters.
(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Toronto, Editing by Franklin Paul and Steve Orlofsky)