Region unanimously asks for dining restriction to be rescinded

CKTB - NEWS - Regional Council Feb 20 2020

Niagara's regional councillors unanimously recommended our top medical officer of health rescind a controversial dining restriction, that will see diners stick to their own households,  that came into effect last weekend.

However, the decision to do that is ultimately up to our top medical officer of health Dr. Mustafa Hirji.

During a special meeting of council, elected officials grilled him about why he did it saying restaurants are being unfairly targeted.  

Hirji explained how public health tracers have found mulitple links to positive cases of covid 19 spreading in restaurant settings.  

While he admitted it's not the restaurants who are to blame but the patrons, Hirji brought the measure in to prevent Niagara from being subjected to further more restrictive measures from the province. 

"I don't want us to get into the red level where there's further restrictions on restaurants. Or if we end up going down the road of actually having a lockdown here and they're actually completely shut down.  I recognize there is severe pain from this, my hope is that pain is going is acting going to prevent our cases, save lives and actually protect the rest of our economy" 

Many local restaurant owners have warned of dire consequences if the restriction isn't lifted saying more job losses and business closures will happen. 

If Niagara were to move into the red level of the Ford governments pandemic restriction model,it would mean only ten people inside a restaurant.  

Since making the decision, Dr. Hirji has been harassed online, been the subject of a petition calling for his firing, and his phone number has been circulated publicly.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford stood up for Hirji, saying it's ridiculous that people are harassing him.

Councillors agreed to improve communication, and schedule weekly COVID workshops for public health to update councillors.

A motion to support local businesses, was also approved during last night's meeting. 

Also included in the motion on dining was a call for better enforcement of provisions contained in the Reopening Act of Ontario. 

Regional Councillors meet again tonight in regular session.