Health unit adds new rules for dining out

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Residents of Renfrew County and District (RCD) will only be able to dine out with members of their own household beginning next week.

The Renfrew County and District Health Unit announced Friday that it is imposing new dining restrictions effective Friday, April 2.

The move is intended to help limit the spread of COVID-19 and “variants of concern” and applies to dining indoors or outside on restaurant patios.

“Residents of RCD have been doing great so far at adhering to public health measures, and most restaurants and establishments have been taking all necessary precautions, however, we need to take greater precautions to protect our communities, families and friends, as variants of concern come closer to home,” said Dr. Robert Cushman, acting medical officer of health.

“Close-contact between members of different households that occur in local food establishments present one of the highest risks for COVID-19 transmission, especially when masks/face coverings are not being worn while eating or drinking,” the health unit added.

“When dining in enclosed public spaces, it is difficult to maintain a minimum physical distance of two metres from others who are seated at your table.”

The health unit said that as of April 2, patrons who wish to be seated at the same table with others in a public dining area can:

  • only dine with people from the same household;
  • dine with a caregiver or;
  • dine with someone who lives alone and is joining one other household.

In a “letter of instruction” to restaurant owners, Dr. Cushman said COVID-19 “continues to be present in Renfrew County and District (RCD).

“Variants of concern (VOCs) have been identified in neighbouring health unit counties. VOCs are associated with a higher risk of transmission.”

“To minimize VOC spread in Ontario communities, the lockdown evidence and experiences from other jurisdictions demonstrate that any currently implemented public health measures should be intensified,” he added.

Under the new rules, restaurants will be required to ask everyone dining inside or out for their name, phone number, email address and “municipality of residence.”

They will also be required to record their time of arrival and departure, and the specific table they were seated at, and maintain those records for a month “in a secure manner to preserve privacy of patrons.”

Customers will also be asked to declare that they are not experiencing any COVID symptoms, and that they are only sitting at a table with household members.

Anyone who refuses to provide their name and information is not to be seated or served.

“The actions we are asking food premises to take as outlined in the letter of instruction will help further protect our community by reducing close contact of unmasked nonhousehold members and ensuring that sufficient information for the purpose of contact tracing can be provided, when required,” Dr. Cushman says.

“This letter of instruction will be enforced by public health inspectors and other provincial offences officers responsible for the enforcement of the Reopening Ontario Act. Failure to comply is an offence under the Reopening Ontario Act for which you may be charged.”

“Thank you in advance for your compliance and cooperation. RCDHU public health inspectors are available to support food premises with implementation of these instructions.

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