Birthday parties, wedding receptions, and other large social gatherings will be prohibited in business establishments in Peel starting next week as the region tries to control the spread of COVID-19.

Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel's medical officer of health, issued additional restrictions on Saturday that are stricter than the measures imposed for areas in the red zone under the province's new colour-coded system.

"These directives have been introduced because indicators that track the pandemic in Peel are trending in the wrong direction," Loh said in a news release.

"Case counts and test positivity rates remain high, public health capacity is stretched thin, and hospitals are at capacity with some procedures cancelled."

The stricter measures include:

  • Social gatherings celebrating holidays and life events in business establishments are not allowed, starting at 12:01 a.m. Nov. 13, 2020.
  • Wedding receptions and associated gatherings are not allowed, starting at 12:01 a.m. Nov. 13 until at least Jan. 7, 2021.
  • Religious services, rites or ceremonies should be virtual. When not possible, in-person religious events, including weddings and funerals, must: reduce indoor capacity to 30% capacity to a maximum 50 people per facility and seat households and essential supports together, at least 2 metres from other groups.
  • Bars, restaurants and other food establishments must restrict seating to people from the same household, or their essential supports. No mixed seating is permitted.
  • Workplaces must prohibit all non-essential visitors and make work-from-home options available, as much as possible.
  • Gyms and fitness centres must make sure all fitness class participants pre-register and provide accurate contact information to help with contact tracing if there is an exposure. No walk-in participation is allowed.
  • Meeting and event spaces, including banquet halls, must close.
  • Residents of Peel must restrict their contact to members of their household and essential supports only. Those that live alone may join one designated household.
  • Residents of Peel should not visit any other household or allow visitors to their homes or yards, except for emergency reasons, including medical and repairs, renovations or construction, deliveries and one-on-one tutoring. Proper precautions must always be used in these situations, including mask wearing, distancing, hand hygiene, and isolating if sick.

Some of the measures mentioned will take effect beginning on Monday and remain in place until further notice.

On Saturday, Peel Region moved to the red "control" category, which permits most businesses to reopen but caps indoor capacity at bars, restaurants, gyms, and casinos to just 10 people.

The region was initially going to be placed in the orange "restrict" category. But due to rising new infections and the climbing positivity rate, the province announced on Friday that Peel will be in the red zone.

The region recorded 104 new infections for every 100,000 people over the last week, which is above the 100-infection per capita benchmark listed among the province's indicators for moving regions into the red category.

Loh told CP24 on Friday that the region is likely the "hardest hit" place in Canada when it comes to COVID-19.

On Saturday, Peel reported 258 new cases of the novel coronavirus.

Soaring new cases have also put some hospitals in the region at capacity, with some patients now being transferred to other health care facilities.

Peel had asked that the region remain under a modified Stage 2 - the restriction classification system previously used by the government - which involves more stringent rules such as a ban on indoor dining in restaurants and bars.

But the province rejected that request, instead placing it under the red category.

Loh previously said these extra measures are needed to address other drivers of transmission in the region now that restaurants, bars, and gyms have reopened.

"It is time to shrink our lives to stop COVID-19 from growing completely out of control. These directives are strict, but they are what is needed to keep people in Peel working and learning, and able to access food, medical care and the basics of everyday life," Loh said in a statement.

"Together, the actions and sacrifices of Peel residents and businesses will stop the spread of COVID-19, help avoid a lockdown and ultimately save lives. We must take aggressive action now to get the pandemic under control in Peel."

- with files from CP24 staff and the Canadian Press