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News release
July 17, 2020

Opening of Indoor Bars in Ontario Potential Risk

TORONTO, JULY 17, 2020 – As some areas of the province move towards Stage 3 of reopening this Friday, the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) is calling on government to rethink opening indoor bars.

Reopening the economy is important for Ontarians’ financial, social and developmental needs. At the same time reopening is not an all or nothing situation.  A balanced approach that considers the risk of disease transmission in different settings is essential to ensure a successful reopening that keeps safety a top priority.

“The evidence from other jurisdictions is that the reopening of bars carries significant risk,” said OMA President Dr. Samantha Hill. “When people consume alcohol, inhibitions are lowered, making them much less likely to practise physical distancing, proper masking behaviours and good hand hygiene. Indoor locations with decreased air ventilation present a particularly high risk of transmission.” 

In recent weeks coronavirus outbreaks tied to indoor bars have been occurring around the world with recent examples in Spain, England and the United States. Here in Canada, we have seen a spike in cases in Montreal many of which can be traced back to bars. New cases linked to bars have jumped from 30 to 45 in one day and that number is expected to rise.

These outbreaks have led to tougher restrictions and in some cases lockdowns being imposed. It is important to note that in many of these cases, the bars were following public safety guidelines and yet transmission still occurred. If people are attending bars it is imperative that they continue to employ social distancing measures.

“We know how important reopening is for business and Ontario’s economy and we strongly urge the government to learn from other jurisdiction’s mistakes when it comes to reopening bars,” said OMA CEO Allan O’Dette. “We need to keep moving forward but caution is needed as we can’t afford another full lockdown.”

The OMA recommends that anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 self-isolate and get tested.

In May, the OMA released a white paper – Reopening Ontario to a ‘New Normal’: Five Public Health Pillars for a Safe Return – that set out a series of increased public health measures to be put in place for the province to reopen safely.

About the OMA

The Ontario Medical Association represents Ontario’s 43,000 plus physicians, medical students and retired physicians, advocating for and supporting doctors while strengthening the leadership role of doctors in caring for patients. Our vision is to be the trusted voice in transforming Ontario’s health-care system. 

For more information, please contact:
OMA Media Relations at