Ottawa’s move to Orange level on Saturday a step towards normalcy: Mayor Watson

OTTAWA — Two days before Ottawa moves into the new “Restrict” level during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Jim Watson says it’s in “our hands” whether restrictions will be relaxed even further.

The Ontario Government will mover Ottawa into the new “orange” level restrictions at 12:01 a.m. on Nov. 7, allowing restaurants and bars to reopen dining, while fitness centres and gyms can reopen.

Under the “restrict” level, bars and restaurants are limited to a maximum 50 people indoors, only four people can sit at a table and last call is 9 p.m.

Appearing on CTV Morning Live Thursday morning, host Leslie Roberts asked Mayor Watson how can restaurants and bars make money when their hours are restricted.

“This is going to be a transition; you know we get to the next category which allows bars and restaurants to stay open longer. So it’s in our hands that we continue to do good in terms of reducing our spread of COVID-19,” said Watson.

“I recognize that restaurants and so on often make a lot of their money in later hours. But we don’t want to go down the path that we’ve seen in some cities where all of a sudden everyone is out late at night gathering and spreading the virus.”

The mayor notes Ottawa could move up to the new “Protect (Green)” level within the next two weeks if cases continue to drop, allowing establishments to serve alcohol until 11 p.m.

“What we’re trying to do is say look at this is the first step back to some semblance of normalcy, work with us to get through this step and we’re very close, Dr. (Vera) Etches tells me, to moving into the next category if our numbers continue to go down,” said Watson.

Earlier this week, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches asked the province to find a “more balanced approach” for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, saying “the approach I’m recommending is that we learn to coexist with COVID with care.”

Dr. Etches noted Ottawa Public Health has seen significant harms from the closures and the impact on people’s businesses and employment.

Mayor Watson tells CTV Morning Live he supports the approach recommended by Dr. Etches and the Ontario Government, adding Ottawa residents deserve a thank you for following the rules to lower COVID-19 levels in the community.

“This has brought us back to, it’s called ‘restrict’ but it’s better than we were before where the restaurants were completely shut down and people were having a really tough time making ends meat,” said Watson.

“What we’re trying to do is find that balance between the rights of individuals to make a living and contribute to the economy and their community, and obviously the health aspect of this horrific virus that’s killed so many people.”

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