Ford cabinet meets to discuss new public health restrictions in Ontario as COVID-19 cases spike: sources

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford, shown at a news conference in Toronto on Oct. 22, and his cabinet met on Sunday to discuss additional public health restrictions, CBC News has learned. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, shown at a news conference in Toronto on Oct. 22, and his cabinet met on Sunday to discuss additional public health restrictions, CBC News has learned. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press - image credit)

The Ontario cabinet met on Sunday to discuss re-implementing stricter measures for indoor dining, gyms and retail, CBC News has learned.

Sources told CBC News the cabinet also talked about the timing of the return to school in the Sunday meeting, though they were not able to say whether a decision had been made.

Premier Doug Ford is scheduled to make an announcement Monday at 11 a.m. ET at Queen's Park. Ford's office says he'll be joined by Health Minister Christine Elliott, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore and Ontario Health CEO Matt Anderson.

The meeting comes as the province sees record numbers of COVID-19 cases linked to the highly transmissible Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2.

Ontario reintroduced capacity limits at restaurants, bars and retailers on Dec. 19, in an effort to slow the spread of the variant.

Ontario recorded 16,714 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, down from Saturday's pandemic high of 18,445 cases.

The province reported 13,807 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and 16,713 on Friday.

The number of active cases in the province has now crossed the 100,000 mark.

Public Health Ontario warned on Saturday that the daily case record was "an underestimate" given changes to testing eligibility and Omicron's quick spread.

Hospitals facing staffing challenges

Ontario's hospital networks warned on Sunday that hospitals are feeling the brunt of soaring COVID-19 case counts as the virus rips through the province at record speed and infects high numbers of patients and health-care workers.

The situation has become so serious that some hospital networks are reporting hundreds of their staff members have tested positive for the virus, are symptomatic or are in isolation after an exposure.

Kevin Smith, president and CEO of Toronto's University Health Network, said those factors combined have resulted in at least 100 staff absences per day as Omicron drives case counts to unprecedented highs across the province.

Current restrictions in Ontario cap social gathering limits at 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors, while capacity limits at most indoor settings have been cut in half.

The number of people sitting at a table in restaurants and bars is limited to 10. Patrons must remain seated at restaurants, bars, meeting and event spaces and strip clubs.

Bars and restaurants, meeting and event spaces and strip clubs must close by 11 p.m., but takeout and delivery are allowed past that time.

Food and beverages are not permitted at sporting events, concert venues, theatres and cinemas, casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments, and horse racing tracks.

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