Ontario reveals plan to lift all COVID-19 restrictions by March next year
TORONTO -- The Ontario government has unveiled its long awaited plan to slowly lift public health restrictions as the COVID-19 situation in the province continues to level off.
In an announcement made Friday, and as previously reported by CTV News Toronto, the province said that it would lift capacity limits in restaurants, fitness centres, casinos and a number of other non-essential indoor settings that require proof of vaccination starting Monday.
"We're sticking with what's worked for our province," Premier Doug Ford said at a news conference. "This is a cautious plan. It slowly lifts public health measures over time, allowing us to monitor any impacts on our hospitals and in our communities. It provides Ontarians and businesses with the certainty they need to make the plans of their own."
Businesses that offer personal care services, like salons and barber shops, can also lift their capacity limits on Oct. 25, but only if they choose to opt-in to the vaccination certificate program.
Capacity limits will continue to lift in other “high-risk” settings in the following months, including at restaurants and bars with dancing facilities, night clubs and strip clubs.
The long-term plan to manage the spread of COVID-19 will continue into January when the province will begin to lift vaccine certificate requirements in settings the government deems as lower risk.
Beginning on January 17, 2022 and barring “concerning trends” of virus transmission, restaurants, sporting facilities and casinos will be able to host patrons without checking their vaccination status. Those measures will continue to ease in other settings in the months that follow.
Also, starting on March 28 and onwards, the government says that all remaining public health and workplace safety measures in businesses and organizations will lift, including the requirement to wear a mask indoors.
At that time, the Progressive Conservative government says that it plans to revoke public health emergency orders made under the Reopening Ontario Act and will table recommendations on where masking could be maintained in places such transit.
The government said it will continue to monitor trends of virus spread both locally and provincially as the province returns to a full reopening. Some of those key indicators include new hospital and ICU admissions related to COVID-19, positivity rates, the effective reproduction number, and vaccination coverage rates.
Should Ontario encounter a spike in case numbers or hospitalization rates at a provincial or local level, the government says it is willing to reintroduce capacity limits, proof of vaccination requirements, or public health and workplace safety measures in settings where transmission is occurring.
"While we are optimistic about the future, the province will continue to monitor the situation very closely, and we will respond quickly to protect Ontarians health should the need arise," Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said.
In modelling presented by Ontario’s science table on Friday, the group advising the Ford government said that COVID-19 case counts are expected to remain stable over the next month, but only if public health measures are not lifted.
Those measures include masking, a proof-of-vaccination system, symptom screening and good ventilation and filtration in indoor settings.
The group said that COVID-19 cases in Ontario are declining in most public health units provincewide thanks to vaccinations and continued public health measures.
As it stands, 83 per cent of Ontario's eligible population has received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and are considered to be fully vaccinated.