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Ontario increases indoor gathering limit for meeting and event facilities

Monday, August 24, 2020 @ 2:10 PM | By John Schofield

The government of Ontario is allowing meeting and event facilities to expand their indoor capacity to up to 50 guests per room.

The loosening of the COVID-19 restrictions took effect Aug. 21.

“Allowing for multiple meetings or events,” Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries, Lisa MacLeod, said in the Aug. 21 news release, “will allow convention centres, hotels and other professional meeting facilities to welcome back more visitors and employees.”

The government’s previous indoor gathering limit was 50 for an entire facility. Indoor attendees are still required to practise physical distancing and, in many jurisdictions, wear a mask.

Outdoor meeting and event facilities remain subject to the 100-person gathering limit for the entire outdoor area, according to the news release. Capacity limits exclude employees or event personnel. Safely allowing these facilities to host more meetings and events is an important step in Ontario's economic recovery, it added.

Each meeting and event facility will have to adhere to a plan approved by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health (OCMOH). Convention centres, hoteliers and other associations have helped inform the development of a guidance document, which was approved by the chief medical officer of health.

New regulatory amendments also went into force Aug. 21 requiring contact information for only one person in a party entering indoor or outdoor dining areas, with some exceptions. “This will reduce the administrative burden on businesses such as restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments, and tour and guide services, while continuing to support case and contact tracing,” the news release said.

Businesses not able to open or resume full activities due to Stage 3 restrictions, or businesses that have ideas to safely amend Stage 3 restrictions or requirements, can visit to submit a reopening proposal. Government and public health officials will review proposals and contact businesses for feedback or clarifications. “Proposals may inform the potential loosening of restrictions as Stage 3 progresses,” the news release stated.

The news release quoted several hotel and event space officials praising the government’s move.

“We applaud the provincial government in permitting the hospitality industry to allow meetings and events on a per room or dedicated space basis,” Tony Elenis, president and CEO of the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association was quoted as saying. “This will support many operations through this challenging pandemic period.”

But the government’s decision to ease the indoor restriction for meeting halls was not universally praised on social media “The #Hypocrisy is laughable,” said Twitter user Lori Thibault, who identifies herself as a teacher and mom. “Meetings must have 2m distancing but Only 1m in a classroom. Pathetic.”

As of the morning of Aug. 24, Ontario reported 105 new cases of COVID-19 and one additional death, bringing the overall death toll to 2,798.

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