Ontario’s top doctor can’t guarantee shuttered businesses will be able to reopen on Jan. 26

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce says it's time to provide some clarity for businesses

The head of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce went fishing for an answer from the Ford government on Thursday if businesses shuttered by the latest COVID-19 restrictions will be allowed to reopen on Jan. 26.

In a statement today, Rocco Rossi says now that the province has said schools will return on Monday, it’s time to provide some clarity for businesses.

While there was no answer from the government, Ontario’s top doctor at a media briefing on Thursday was asked how likely it might be for businesses to open their doors again on Jan. 26.

“We don’t have great clarity yet,” said Kieran Moore, the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.

Indoor dining at restaurants and bars was shuttered on Jan. 5, and cinemas, theatres, gyms, certain attractions like museums, galleries, zoos, and science centres were closed, along with indoor sport and recreational facilities and indoor concert venues.

The return to a modified Step 2 of Ontario’s COVID-19 roadmap was aimed at slowing the spread of the Omicron variant in response to a surge in cases and hospitalizations.

“Omicron in Ontario may peak in the next few weeks,” Moore told Thursday’s media briefing. “But the province is unlikely to see a full-blown reopening until COVID-19 cases plateau and pressures on the health-care system ease.”

He says the peak in cases will likely be followed by increases in hospitalizations and ICU admissions.

Moore added that he could not guarantee the 26th as a reopening for closed businesses, adding reopening will be stage-by-stage to prevent a new spike in cases.

The doctor says he is looking for a plateau before reducing public health measures.

On Thursday, Ontario reported a record-high 3,630 patients in hospital with COVID-19.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says of those hospitalized with COVID-19, 54 per cent were admitted to hospital because of COVID-19, while 46 per cent were admitted for other reasons but tested positive for the virus.

There are 500 people in the ICU with COVID-19, a drop of five patients from the day before.

The province says 82 per cent were admitted to the ICU because of COVID-19 and 18 per cent admitted for other reasons but tested positive for the virus.