The Ontario government has reversed its decision and will now allow 550 fully vaccinated health-care workers to attend the Toronto Maple Leafs playoff game in-person tonight.
Premier Doug Ford said in a statement on Monday that following discussions with top health officials he's "happy to announce" they have signed off on a plan to allow the workers from hospital and long-term care homes to attend the game.
The health-care workers must have received both COVID-19 vaccine doses in order to attend the game.
"Every single day our health-care workers put their lives on the line to help others," Ford said. "This small token of appreciation doesn't measure up to the sacrifices they’ve made during COVID-19, but it is an opportunity for us to recognize their heroic efforts to keep each and every one of us safe. It also shows that the more of us who get vaccinated, the faster we can return to doing the things we miss."
Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment will cover the cost of allowing the health-care workers to attend the game and will provide each with a jersey.
Each participating Toronto-area hospital will conduct its own lottery to give away tickets to the game. Only health-care workers who have been fully immunized for at least two weeks can participate.
Toronto Mayor John Tory released a statement on Monday, saying the decision is "another step in our move towards a safe and cautious reopening in the coming weeks."
He said it also shows the importance of getting fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
"I want to thank Premier Ford and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment for working quickly to find a way to recognize our frontline workers and safely bring fans back," Tory said.
For a first this year in Canada, public health officials in Quebec allowed 2,500 spectators inside Montreal’s Bell Centre on Saturday, with some spending five-figure sums to watch the Habs cling to survival with an overtime Game 6 win.
Quebec's decision prompted Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown to ask people to sign an online petition to let frontline health-care workers who are fully vaccinated to attend Game 7.
Asked if Ontario would allow it, an Ontario Ministry of Heritage, Tourism, Culture and Sport spokesperson said on Sunday it was just not possible for Monday.
Ontario's existing reopening plan does not permit indoor sports spectators until approximately August.