At 12:01 a.m. Monday, Ontario will enter the first stage of its three-stage reopening plan, which means a number of restrictions imposed earlier this month in an attempt to curb transmission of the Omicron variant will be lifted.
As of January 31, the limits for social gatherings will increase to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.
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.
Premier Doug Ford told a news conference Jan. 20 that the province’s approach to rolling back the restrictions, which originally came into effect Jan. 5, will be “cautious and gradual.”
“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.”
The restrictions lifted in Ontario on Monday are as follows:
Social gatherings will be increased to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.
Sporting events, concert halls and theaters will be able to operate at 50% seating capacity or 500 people, whichever is lower.
Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments without dance facilities will be able to operate with 50% capacity indoors.
Retailers, including grocery stores and pharmacies, as well as shopping malls, can operate with 50% capacity indoors.
Spectator-free areas of sports and recreational fitness facilities, including gymnasiums, may operate at 50% indoor capacity.
Cinemas, meeting rooms and event spaces can operate with 50% capacity indoors.
Recreation facilities and amusement parks, including water parks, can operate with 50% capacity indoors.
Museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos and similar attractions, as well as casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments can open at 50% capacity indoors.
Religious services, rites or indoor ceremonies can take place at 50% capacity.
The province said enhanced proof of vaccination and other requirements would continue to apply in existing settings.
The government has also clarified that people attending indoor events in a sports or concert hall, cinema or other gaming establishments will be allowed to eat and drink, as long as they remain seated.
The legal requirement to work from home, except when necessary, has also been lifted by the province, although Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr Kieren Moore, recommends that those who can work from home continue to do it.
Moore reiterated that fact at a press conference earlier this month, saying individual case management is no longer beneficial based on Omicron’s broad community outreach.
“You have to take personal responsibility based on symptoms, knowing when to access health systems and (rapid antigen tests),” Moore said. “We have to learn as a society to live with this virus, to live with the risk.”
Ontario reported 58 more deaths from COVID-19 on Sunday, with hospitalizations dropping significantly to just over 3,100 patients.
With files by Miriam Katawazi and Katherine DeClerq.