Queen’s Park closed out the work week by announcing details of its long-term COVID-19 reopening strategy. It includes removing capacity limits at restaurants, bars, fitness centres, and more, effective Monday.
Premier Doug Ford outlined plans to exit Step 3 of the Roadmap to Reopen on Friday, saying there will be a gradual lifting of all remaining public health restrictions by March 2022. The first step begins at 12:01 a.m. Monday, with capacity limits lifted at the vast majority of settings that require proof of vaccination. This includes restaurants, bars, gyms, bingo halls, casinos, and indoor event spaces.
As of Monday, capacity limits will also be lifted in the following settings, if they choose to require proof of vaccination:
- 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.
In November, the province is expected to lift capacity limits at remaining higher risk settings where proof of vaccination is required, including nightclubs, wedding receptions in event spaces, strip clubs, and bathhouses.
The lifting of capacity limits in sectors that do not require proof of vaccination, like retail settings, is expected to come by January 2022, so long as the pandemic trends as predicted. It is also anticipated the province will remove proof of vaccination requirements at lower-risk settings like eateries.
It is expected that masking and vaccine certification requirements will end by March of next year.
“We are now in a position where we can see the proposed plan for lifting the remaining public health and workplace safety measures in Ontario,” said Dr. Kieran Moore, Chief Medical Officer of Health. “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.”
The announcement this week was anticipated by many; the premier and Ontario’s chief medical officer both said last week that guidance was expected at some point this week. The announcement came following pressure on Queen’s Park to lift restrictions, after announcing the removal of capacity limits at large venues like movie theatres and concert halls earlier this month.
Ford’s media conference came following new modelling data released by the province’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table that indicated Ontarians were able to contain the fourth wave of the virus, with stable hospitalizations and ICU occupancy expected through November.