COVID restrictions in Ontario will be eased sooner than expected, given that public health and health system indicators have shown continued reassuring changes in the past few weeks. The new regulations are congruent with the second phase of the province’s COVID-19 reopening plan.
Doug Ford, the premier of Ontario, said that “given how well Ontario has done in the Omicron wave we are able to fast track our reopening plan. This is great news and a sign of just how far we’ve come together in our fight against the virus. While we aren’t out of the woods just yet we are moving in the right direction.”
This decision was supported by the health indicators of the province that have been stable and improving. The positivity rate, the number of hospital admissions due to COVID-19, and intensive care unit (ICU) utilization have all been decreasing and are expected to continue doing so. As such, the province has surpassed the peak of COVID-19 cases brought about by the omicron variant. Because of this, Ontario can move forward with its next phase of reopening earlier than intended.
In addition to this, vaccination efforts in the province continue to be promoted. More than 202,000 citizens of the province have already received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. At the same time, many have also gotten their third dose, with reports showing that more than 2,575,000 citizens have received it.
The administration of boosters is also expanding. Starting Friday, February 18, 2022, children ages 12 to 17 years old are already eligible to receive a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. There should be a six-month interval, or 168 days, between the last dose of the primary immunization administered and the receipt of the booster dose. Eligible individuals can get their booster dose by setting up an appointment through the provincial booking system, the Provincial Vaccine Contact Center, or at certain pharmacies.
Changes in the COVID Restrictions in Ontario Were Not Made Because of the Demands of the Protesters
The continued protest of the Freedom Convoy against vaccine mandates has pushed provincial authorities to declare a state of emergency in Ontario last week. More than that, Trudeau also invoked the Emergencies Act earlier this week. However, Ford said that the decision to ease restrictions in Ontario sooner than planned had nothing to do with the demands of the protesters. Authorities rely on health indicators when making decisions about the gradual reopening of the province.
He also said that “we’re moving forward as a province and a country, and this chaos is not going to be tolerated, I promise you that.”
COVID Restrictions in Ontario Effective by Feb 17, 2022
As soon as 12:01 a.m. strikes the clock on Thursday, the following COVID restrictions in Ontario will take effect:
Social gatherings done in indoor settings can have as many as 50 people. On the other hand, social gatherings done in outdoor settings can accommodate up to 100 people.
Organized Public Events
Organized public events done indoors can have 50 attendees at the most. Restrictions for organized public events held outdoors are more lax. They do not have any limit on the number of people who can participate.
Indoor Public Settings
Indoor public settings will not have any limitations on the number of customers they can accommodate, as long as proof of vaccination is required prior to entry. These public settings refer to the following:
- Restaurants, bars, and any food or drink establishments that do not have dance facilities
- Sports and recreational fitness facilities, this also includes gyms
- Meeting and event spaces, conference or convention centers
- Casinos, bingo halls, and any other establishments for gaming
- Horse racing tracks, car racing tracks, and any other venues that hold similar activities
- Commercial film and television productions that are conducted with a live audience
Establishments in this category can only accommodate as many customers as is possible with their space. This comes with the condition that at least two meters of physical distance be maintained among individuals within the establishment at any given time.
Personal Care Services
Similarly, the number of customers within these establishments should only be limited to the allowable capacity wherein at least two meters of physical distance can be maintained. However, this does not apply if the establishment requires proof of vaccination from its customers prior to availing of its services.
Facials, saunas, steam rooms, and other personal care services wherein customers need to remove their face masks are also allowed. The staff providing these aforementioned services should be wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).
Religious Services, Rites, and Ceremonies
Religious services, rites, and ceremonies conducted indoors are similarly limited by the space where they are held. Participants should maintain at least 2 meters of distance from each other. This is also applicable to weddings and funerals.
However, there are no limits on the number of attendees in indoor settings if proof of vaccination is required for participation in such.
Religious services, rites, and ceremonies held in outdoor settings do not have any limit on the number of attendees that can participate.
Other Activities and Establishments
Spectator areas of the facilities utilized for sports, recreational fitness activities, concert venues, and theatres can accommodate up to 50% of their capacity.
Food and drink establishments that offer dance facilities can operate at 25% of their indoor capacity. These include nightclubs and meeting or event spaces for wedding receptions. The same regulation also applies to bathhouses and sex clubs. For all of these establishments, proof of vaccination must be presented by all attendees.
COVID Restrictions in Ontario Effective by March 1, 2022
COVID restrictions in Ontario will be made even more lax starting next month. However, these will only be implemented if the COVID-19 situation in the province continues to be favorable. Authorities will evaluate the health care indicators before then. This will help them determine if the restrictions are still necessary to curb the transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
There will be no limits on the number of individuals in any of the indoor public settings. As such, establishments and venues can operate at their full capacity.
Proof of vaccination to gain access to certain settings will also not be required anymore. Based on their best judgment, businesses that prefer to continue with this regulation can do so.
Face masks and face coverings will still be mandatory. Individuals will also be subjected to either active or passive screening when in an establishment or venue.
However, public health units can still adjust regulations at the local and regional levels to make them more appropriate with respect to what the health indicators show.