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Ontario Announces Three-Step Plan to Phase Out COVID-19 Restrictions

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Ontario Announces Three-Step Plan to Phase Out COVID-19 Restrictions

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Ontario has announced it will allow restaurants and indoor gyms to reopen and increase gathering limits on Jan. 31 as part of a three-step plan to ease COVID-19 restrictions in the province.

“We can be sure the worst is behind us as we seek to cautiously ease public health measures,” Premier Doug Ford said Thursday. “We are now in a position to cautiously and gradually relax public health measures.”

Starting Jan. 31, the limits for social gatherings will increase to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors, the province said.

Indoor restaurants, gyms, retailers, malls and movie theaters can reopen at 50% capacity.

Museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos, casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments can also reopen.

The government will also allow spectators at sporting events, concert halls and theaters at 50% seating capacity or 500 people, whichever is lower.

Each stage of reopening will be 21 days apart so the province can monitor public health trends.

“We want to do everything humanly possible to avoid having to go back,” Ford said. “If that means taking a break between stages for a few more days, we wouldn’t hesitate to do so.”

On February 21, Ontario will increase the limits on indoor social gatherings to 25 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.

For the time being, the province will also remove capacity limits in indoor public places where proof of vaccination is required, including restaurants, indoor sports and recreation facilities and movie theaters.

Indoor capacity limits of 25% will be put in place for high-risk environments where proof of vaccination is required, including nightclubs, wedding receptions in event spaces where there is dancing, as well than public baths and sex clubs.

Other facilities that choose to adhere to proof of vaccination requirements will also be permitted to waive capacity limits.

Spectator capacity at sporting events, concert halls and theaters will be 50% on February 21.

Indoor public places where proof of vaccination is not required will be limited to the number of people who can maintain a physical distance of two meters.

On March 14, Ontario will lift all capacity limits in indoor public places, but proof of vaccination will still be in effect.

Social gathering limits will increase to 50 people indoors at that time, with no limit for outdoor gatherings. Any remaining capacity limits for religious services, rites or ceremonies will also be lifted at that time.

No date has been announced for the lifting of Ontario’s vaccination proof system and mask-wearing mandate.

“There are positive signs that we may be reaching the peak of the Omicron wave in Ontario,” said Health Minister Christine Elliott. “However, we still need to be humble and careful.”

Ford said the province is not currently considering updating its proof of vaccination requirement from two to three doses.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Kieran Moore said the decision to start reopening the economy was made because there are positive indicators that transmission of COVID-19 is starting to subside.

“The percentage of positive tests is down to 15%, so that’s an indicator we’re monitoring very closely, along with the ability to care for Ontarians in intensive care units as well as in hospital,” he said.

Moore did not give a date for resuming elective surgeries, which were halted earlier this month.

Ontario Announces Three-Step Plan to Phase Out COVID-19 Restrictions

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