Region plans heightened COVID-19 safety measures

Ontario, including Niagara, is at a precarious point in the pandemic.
Average cases in Niagara, while declining, remain almost as high as at the worst of the first wave, according to officials with Niagara’s department of health.
Variants of COVID-19 are also increasingly spreading in the GTA. Many experts are warning that a third wave might arrive very soon. To save lives and give Niagara’s economy a sustained opportunity to recover, it is imperative that the reopening be carefully managed.

While the region is currently in the Grey-Lockdown zone of COVID-19 protocols, added restrictions for shopping malls, retail stores, and food and drink premises in Niagara were announced, effective Feb. 22.

Dr. Mustafa Hirji, Niagara’s acting medical officer of health, has issued orders under Section 22 for:

  • Shopping and retail
  • Food and drink premises, including bars, restaurants, banquet halls, wineries or breweries and establishments where only beverages are served

Failure to comply with these orders is an offence for which you may be liable, on conviction, to a fine of not more than $5,000 for every day or part of each day on which the offence occurs or continues, states a Region press release.

The press release states the added measures are need because, “Ontario, including Niagara, find ourselves at a precarious point in this pandemic. Our average cases remain near the highest point of the first wave. We saw through the fall that despite the measures in the province’s framework for keeping Ontario safe and open, COVID-19 continued to rise, though slowly, but eventually leading to the provincial shutdown earlier this winter.”

“We see variants of COVID-19 increasingly spreading in the GTA; other countries that have reopened such as the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands have found that these variants caused a third wave and required a third lockdown soon after the second lockdown.”

There was no data supplied to support the decision, but a request has been issued to the Region’s health department.

Through the fall, despite the measures in the province’s Framework for Keeping Ontario Safe and Open, COVID-19 continued to rise, albeit slowly, but eventually leading to the recent provincial shutdown. In an effort to ensure success of the provincial framework and to support a sustained reopening in a way that protects Niagara residents, Public Health is instituting the following additional measures.
Food Premises
When food services are permitted to reopen in Niagara, local restaurants, bars, wineries, breweries, and other food and beverage service operators will once again be asking for information including if diners have any symptoms of illness. They will also ask diners to confirm that they are dining only with members of their immediate household or persons essential to maintaining physical and mental health.
Research continues to build that in-person dining is inherently risky given it involves close interaction over a lengthy period of time without masks. It should be emphasized that this risk is inherent in the activity, and of no fault of owners/operators. After this measure was first instituted in November, Niagara saw a sharp reduction in infections related to public dining. This requirement strikes a balance between reducing risk of COVID-19 while allowing in-person dining to safely resume once permitted.
Shopping and Retail
Aligning with rules instituted in Hamilton and Halton Region to strengthen physical distancing measures, businesses that engage in retail sales to the public and shopping malls (including stores situated within a shopping mall), will be required to actively monitor and manage compliance with physical distancing and masking requirements within those businesses, as well as in line-ups outside these locations.
The owners and operators of establishments that directly interact with the public are on the front lines of where COVID-19 spread occurs. Their hard work and investment in protecting their employees and clients has prevented infection and saved lives in our community.
“Working together we can achieve the necessary balance that will help prevent the spread of COVID-19, keep members of the community, employees and clients safe, while providing the opportunity for businesses to safely re-open and remain open,” stated a Niagara Region press release.

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