The Ontario government is easing COVID-19 restrictions on some businesses — including restaurants and gyms — beginning the end of January.
Starting at 12:01 am on Monday, Jan. 31, these settings will have a capacity limit of 50 per cent, some of which were previously closed:
- Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments without dance facilities.
- Retailers (including grocery stores and pharmacies).
- Shopping malls.
- Non-spectator areas of sports and recreational fitness facilities, including gyms.
- Meeting and event spaces.
- Recreational amenities and amusement parks, including water parks.
- Museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos and similar attractions.
- Casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments.
- Religious services, rites, or ceremonies.
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In addition, social gathering limits will increase to 10 people indoors, 25 people outdoors.
Events with spectators such as sporting events or concerts or theaters will be capped at either 500 people or 50 per cent seated capacity, whichever is less, officials said.
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Proof of vaccination and other requirements such as masking will continue to apply, the government said.
The government also recently mandated that Ontarians must use the proof of vaccination certificate that includes a scannable QR code, as the older versions were susceptible to fraud.
When asked by a reporter if the premier would update the vaccine certificate requirement to include three doses, as millions have recently received booster shots, Premier Doug Ford said “not right at this point.”
Earlier this month on Jan. 5, the province implemented additional restrictions on businesses amid a spike in Omicron cases. They included additional capacity limits, a ban on indoor dining and the closure of several types of facilities including gyms, cinemas and museums.
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In the recent days, public health officials have noted improving trends amid the Omicron wave.
“The evidence tells us that the measures we put in place to blunt transmission of Omicron are working,” Premier Doug Ford said. “We can be confident that the worst is behind us and that we are now in a position to cautiously and gradually ease public health measures.”
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The province also said more easing of restrictions will occur nearly three weeks later.
On Monday, Feb. 21, the province is lifting more public health measures including:
- Social gathering limits increase to 25 people indoors, 100 people outdoors.
- Removing capacity limits in indoor public settings where proof of vaccination is required.
- Permitting spectator capacity at sporting events, concert venues, and theaters at 50 per cent capacity.
- Limiting capacity in most remaining indoor public settings where proof of vaccination is not required to the number of people that can maintain two meters of physical distance.
- Indoor religious services, rites or ceremonies limited to the number that can maintain two meters of physical distance, with no limit if proof of vaccination is required.
- Increasing indoor capacity limits to 25 per cent in the remaining higher-risk settings where proof of vaccination is required, including nightclubs, wedding receptions in meeting or event spaces where there is dancing, as well as bathhouses and sex clubs.
Then, on Monday, March 14, Ontario said it plans to lift capacity limits in all indoor public settings. However, proof of vaccination will remain in place.
It will also lift remaining capacity limits on religious services, rites or ceremonies.
Social gathering limits will also increase to 50 people indoors, and no limits for outdoor gatherings.
In a plan to reopen the province released in October — contingent on public health trends and prior to the Omicron variant — the government had intended to lift all public health measures by the end of March, including masking, though recommendations for masking would have remained in certain settings.
In a statement released Thursday evening, the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO) called the announcement “premature,” saying it will “prolong the current health system crisis.”
“It is irresponsible to announce that gyms, indoor dining and other settings can open up to 50 per cent capacity and sporting events, concert venue and theaters will be able to have up to 500 people when people’s surgeries and procedures have been postponed, schools have only just reopened and ICU numbers continue to increase,” the statement reads.
The RNAO said it urges the government to “reverse course and maintain strict public health measures for the next few weeks to alleviate pressures on Ontario’s overworked nurses and a collapsed health system.”
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