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Premier Doug Ford

Ontario announces slow, incremental lifting of COVID-19 restrictions

Friday, October 22, 2021 @ 3:31 PM | By Amanda Jerome

On Oct. 22, the Ontario government released a plan gradually lifting remaining public health and workplace safety measures by March 2022.

According to a government release, A Plan to Safely Reopen Ontario and Manage COVID-19 for the Long-Term will “be guided by the ongoing assessment of key public health and health care indicators and supported by local or regional tailored responses to COVID-19.” The key public health indicators include “the identification of any new COVID-19 variants, increases in hospitalizations and ICU occupancy and rapid increases in transmission.”

Premier Doug Ford

The province will “slowly and incrementally lift all remaining public health and workplace safety measures, including the provincial requirement for proof of vaccination and wearing of face coverings in indoor public settings, over the next six months,” the release explained.

Premier Doug Ford said the plan is “built for the long term.”

“It will guide us safely through the winter and out of this pandemic, while avoiding lockdowns and ensuring we don’t lose the hard-fought gains we have made,” he added in a statement.

Dr. Kieran Moore, chief medical officer of health, said the province is “now in a position where we can see the proposed plan for lifting the remaining public health and workplace safety measures in Ontario.”

“The months ahead will require continued vigilance, as we don’t want to cause any more unnecessary disruption to people’s everyday lives. We must continue to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in our communities by following the public health measures in place and by vaccinating those who have not yet received their shots. Ontario has the infrastructure in place to manage outbreaks, including a high-volume capacity for testing, and people to perform fast and effective case and contact management when needed,” he explained in a statement.

According to the release, public health and workplace safety measures “will be lifted based on the proposed following milestones” listed by date. 

October 25, 2021

Effective Oct. 25, at 12:01 a.m., the province will “lift capacity limits in the vast majority of settings where proof of vaccination is required, such as restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments; indoor areas of sports and recreational facilities such as gyms and where personal physical fitness trainers provide instruction; casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments; and indoor meeting and event spaces. Limits will also be lifted in certain outdoor settings.”

On this date, the government will also permit “other settings to lift capacity limits and physical distancing requirements if they choose to require proof of vaccination, including:
  • Personal care services (e.g., barber shops, salons, body art);
  • Indoor areas of museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos, science centres, landmarks, historic sites, botanical gardens and similar attractions;
  • Indoor areas of amusement parks;
  • Indoor areas of fairs, rural exhibitions, festivals;
  • Indoor tour and guide services;
  • Boat tours;
  • Indoor areas of marinas and boating clubs;
  • Indoor clubhouses at outdoor recreational amenities;
  • Open house events provided by real estate agencies; and
  • Indoor areas of photography studios and services.”

The release noted that places where “wedding, funeral or religious service, rite or ceremony takes place may also implement proof of vaccination requirements for services, rites, or ceremonies at the location.”

“This will not apply to settings where people receive medical care, food from grocery stores and medical supplies. In addition, the government intends to allow for greater capacity at organized public events such as Remembrance Day ceremonies and Santa Claus parades with more details coming in the near future,” the release added.

November 15, 2021

On this date, the government plans to “lift capacity limits in the remaining higher-risk settings where proof of vaccination is required, including food or drink establishments with dance facilities (e.g., night clubs, wedding receptions in meeting/event spaces where there is dancing); strip clubs, bathhouses and sex clubs.”

January 17, 2022

The release stressed that absent “concerning trends in public health and health care following the winter holiday months and after students returned to in-class learning,” by this date the province plans to start “gradually lifting capacity limits in settings where proof of vaccination is not required.”

“Proof of vaccination requirements may also begin to be gradually lifted at this time, including for restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments, facilities used for sports and recreational facilities and casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments,” the release added.

February 7, 2022

At this point, the government “intends to lift proof of vaccination requirements in high-risk settings, including night clubs, strip clubs, and bathhouses and sex clubs.”

March 28, 2022

By this date, the plan is that any “remaining public health and workplace safety measures will be lifted, including wearing face coverings in indoor public settings.”

“Recommendations may be released for specific settings, if appropriate,” the release stressed, noting that the “provincial requirement for proof of vaccination will be lifted for all remaining settings, including meeting and event spaces, sporting events, concerts, theatres and cinemas, racing venues and commercial and film productions with studio audiences.”

“To manage COVID-19 over the long term, local and regional responses by public health units will be deployed based on local context and conditions,” the release added, noting that public health measures that may be applied locally could include “reintroducing capacity limits and/or physical distancing, reducing gathering limits and adding settings where proof of vaccination is required, among others.”

The release also noted that public health measures would be implemented provincially “in exceptional circumstances, such as when the province’s health system capacity is at risk of becoming overwhelmed or if a vaccine resistant COVID-19 variant is identified in the province.”

“The powers to extend and amend orders under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020 are currently in effect until December 1, 2021, and Ontario intends to seek the Legislature’s approval to extend these powers as authorized under the ROA in order to be able to maintain necessary public health and workplace measures until they are no longer needed,” the government’s announcement explained.

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