Ontario to start reopening businesses, boost gathering sizes
The Canadian PressCOVID-19 Updates News COVID-19 lockdown Ontario
By Allison Jones
TORONTO — Ontario will soon begin easing COVID-19 restrictions, starting by boosting the size of social gathering and reopening businesses such as restaurants, gyms and cinemas with capacity limits, with an eye to lifting all constraints by mid-March.
Premier Doug Ford said Thursday he’s announcing a phased reopening plan because public health indicators are starting to show signs of improvement.
“We can be confident that the worst is behind us,” he said.
“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. The coming weeks will continue to pose real challenges, especially to our hospitals.”
The rate of new hospital admissions is slowing, Ford said, and the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests has dropped significantly from early this month, when the province placed the most recent round of restrictions on businesses and moved schools online for two weeks.
Ontario reported 4,061 people in hospital with COVID-19 on Thursday and 594 people in intensive care units. That’s the second day in a row that the number of hospitalizations has fallen, from a peak Tuesday of 4,183, though the ICU occupancy is still rising.
The province reported that another 75 people have died, including some deaths that occurred earlier this month.
When Ford announced the latest restrictions on Jan. 3, they included a hospital directive to pause all non-urgent surgeries and procedures. Health Minister Christine Elliott said Thursday it is still too soon to lift that order because the peak of the admissions to ICU likely won’t happen until mid-February.
“As soon as we can see that the numbers are going down both in terms of admissions to hospital and in terms of intensive care admissions, then we’ll be able to get back on track with those surgeries and procedures,” she said.
In the meantime, restaurant dining rooms, gyms, cinemas, museums and zoos — which have been closed since early this month — can reopen on Jan. 31 at 50 per cent capacity, and spectator areas of sporting events, concert venues and theatres can operate with no more than 500 people, with smaller venues limited to half capacity.
As well, allowable social gathering sizes will be increased to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors — up from the limit of five people indoors and 10 people outdoors that was imposed as of Jan. 5.
There will be 21 days between each reopening step, if health trends don’t become concerning.
On Feb. 21, gathering limits will be increased further to 25 people indoors and 100 outdoors, capacity limits will be lifted in establishments requiring proof of vaccination, including restaurants, gyms and cinemas, while sporting events, concert venues and theatres can open at 50 per cent capacity.
On March 14, capacity limits will be lifted in all indoor public settings and indoor social gathering limits will be increased to 50 people, while there will be no limit on the size of outdoor social gatherings.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2022.
News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2022.
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