With COVID-19 cases soaring and the apparent community spread of Omicron in Ontario, the Ford government has announced a cap on social gatherings to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.
As well, the province is applying a 50 per cent capacity limit in indoor public settings such as restaurants, bars, gyms, pharmacies, grocery stores, shopping malls and personal care services, except in facilities offering religious gatherings, weddings and funerals. Restaurants, bars and other food establishments, meeting and event spaces, and strip clubs must close at 11 p.m. each night, though take out and delivery will not be impacted.
Food and drink service will be prohibited in specific settings such as sporting events, concert venues, theatres and cinemas, bingo halls, casinos and other gaming establishments and racing tracks.
The number of people that can sit together in restaurants will be limited to ten per table. It would also require patrons to remain seated. Patrons will also have to remain seated at concert venues, theatres and cinemas.
These measures came into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday.
The announcement by Premier Doug Ford and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr Kieran Moore on Friday comes one day after a dire warning from Ontario’s Science Advisory Table that “circuit breakers” were needed immediately, such as people in the province limiting their contacts by at least 50 per cent and ramping up booster shot campaigns by 250,000 shots per day to blunt the spread of Omicron.
The change is just what the doctor ordered in Simcoe Muskoka.
Local medical officer of health Dr. Charles Gardner said at a media briefing on Wednesday that if the province did not act to curb spread across Ontario, he was prepared to put in place restrictions locally to limit capacity at restaurants, bars, fitness and recreational facilities to 50 per cent and reduce social gatherings to 10 people from 25, and this was to take effect on Monday, Dec. 20.
But it appears the government has done it for him.
Gardner commended the decision.
“Today’s announcement is welcome news and I applaud Premier Doug Ford and the provincial government for making what I know is a very difficult but essential decision that prioritizes the health of people and protects our already over-burdened health care and public health resources,” said Gardner in a statement.
“Based on the local rate of transmission of the Omicron variant and modelling from the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, we know that we are facing what has the potential to be a dire situation and that further restrictions are necessary to stem this tide. I acknowledge that this is not the news that residents and businesses want to hear, especially during this holiday season. But I’m confident if we all follow these restrictions, get vaccinated and follow the standard public health measures we can manage this crisis.”
Ontario has already announced it would be expanding eligibility for COVID-19 booster shots to anyone 18 and older starting Monday.
Ford said no decision had been made about a return to school in the New Year, noting the situation is changing rapidly.
WHAT IS HAPPENING AS OF 12:01 A.M. ON SUNDAY, DEC. 19
- Social gathering limits capped at 25 people outdoors and 10 people indoors
Capacity Limits in Indoor Settings
The following indoor settings will be reduced to 50 per cent capacity:
- Bars, restaurants and other food or drink establishments and strip clubs
- Grocery stores and pharmacies
- Personal care services like barber shops, hair and nail salons
- Personal physical fitness trainers
- Indoor clubhouses at outdoor recreational amenities
- Photography studios and services
- Tour and guide services
- Indoor recreational facilities.
All businesses and will be required to have a sign posted stating the indoor capacity limits permitted within the facility.
The number of people sitting at a table in restaurants and bars will be limited to 10.
Patrons will have to remain seated at restaurants, bars, meeting and event spaces and strip clubs.
Bars and restaurants, meeting and event spaces and strip clubs will have to close by 11 p.m., but take out and delivery will be allowed.