Ontario announces three-step plan to loosen restrictions

Amended rules come into play January 31 in welcome news for employers

Ontario announces three-step plan to loosen restrictions

Employers have received a boost after Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced plans to loosen COVID-19 restrictions. However, the plans are staggered and most of the remaining measures will not be completely lifted until mid-March.

From January 31, a number of indoor settings and businesses will be able to reopen to the public with 50% capacity limits. These include:

  • Restaurants, bars and other food establishments without dancing.
  • Retailers, including shopping malls.
  • Gyms and non-spectator areas of sports facilities.
  • Movie theatres.
  • Meeting and event spaces.
  • Museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos and similar attractions.
  • Casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments.
  • Religious services, rites and ceremonies.

Arenas and concert venues will also be open at 50 per cent capacity or up to 500 people, whichever is less, the government said in a news release. Indoor social gatherings of up to 10 people and outdoors gatherings of up to 25 will be allowed. Enhanced proof of vaccination and masking requirements will remain in place.

From February 21, social gathering limits will increase to 25 for indoors and 100 people outdoors, and other changes include removing capacity on all indoor spaces where proof of vaccination is required

Finally on March 14, according to the government, all capacity limits on indoor spaces will be lifted. Proof of vaccination and masking requirements will continue to remain in place where they already exist.

Read more: Ontario's new COVID rebate program now open

Ford said he's confident the worst of the fifth wave stoked by the more contagious Omicron variant has passed. ``While we can be confident in how far we've come, I want to be crystal clear: we're not out of the woods yet,'' Ford cautioned. ``The coming weeks will continue to pose real challenges, especially to our hospitals.''

According to the Canadian Press, one Toronto restaurant said it wouldn't be opening its dining room at half capacity, since at those levels labour costs exceed sales.

``Cant profit at that level nor do I think our customers are ready,'' Bistro on Avenue tweeted.

 ``We have managed to keep our staff healthy with takeout and delivery and will continue with that for a few months.''

Full timeline

Jan. 31:

  • Social gatherings can increase to a maximum of 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.
  • Indoor public settings including restaurants, bars, retail stores, malls, gyms, cinemas, meeting and event spaces, museums, galleries and similar attractions, casinos and gaming establishments and religious services can open to 50 per cent capacity.
  • Spectator areas of sporting events, concert venues and theatres can operate with no more than 500 people, with smaller venues limited to half capacity.
  • Proof-of-vaccination will be required in settings that have asked for it before.

Feb. 21:

  • Social gatherings will be limited to 25 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.
  • Spectator capacity at sporting events, concert venues and theatres will be capped at 50 per cent.
  • Capacity limits will lift in indoor public settings that require proof of vaccination like restaurants, gyms and cinemas. Settings that choose to require proof of vaccination can open without capacity limits, too.
  • Most indoor public settings where proof of vaccination is not required must limit capacity to whether people can maintain two metres of distance from each other.
  • Indoor religious services and ceremonies are limited to the number of people who can stay two metres apart from each other, but there is no capacity limit if the setting requires proof of vaccination.
  • Nightclubs, wedding receptions in spaces with dancing, bathhouses and sex clubs must limit capacity to 25 per cent and maintain proof of vaccination rules.

March 14:

  • Capacity limits will lift for all indoor public settings and religious services.
  • Proof of vaccination will still be required in places that currently require it.
  • Social gatherings will be limited to 50 people indoors with no limits on outdoors gatherings.

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