Ontario to start easing COVID-19 restrictions on Jan. 31, to lift most measures by mid-March

Image: Doug Ford. Image credit: Twitter handle

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Ottawa/CMEDIA: Ontario’s plans to ease restrictions starting from Jan 31 were announced jointly by Premier Doug Ford. Health Minister Christine Elliott and Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health at a morning news conference on Jan 20

 “We’re taking a cautious approach,” Ford said, before adding he’s “confident” this reopening plan will work and that “the worst is behind us” in terms of new COVID-19 cases.

Starting Jan. 31, many indoor settings would reopen to the public with 50 percent capacity limits, including restaurants, bars, and other food establishments without dancing, retailers, including shopping malls, gyms, and non-spectator areas of sports facilities, movie theatres, meetings, and event spaces, museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos, and similar attractions; Casinos, bingo halls, and other gaming establishments, Religious services, rites, and ceremonies.

Areas like arenas and concert venues will also be open at 50 percent capacity or up to 500 people, whichever is less, the government said in a news release.

Enhanced proof of vaccination and masking requirements will remain in place.

Moreover, indoor social gatherings of up to 10 people and outdoor gatherings of up to 25 will be permitted.

It was also announced that on Feb. 21, social gathering limits will increase to 25 for indoors and 100 people outdoors.

And on March 14, according to the government, all capacity limits on indoor spaces will be lifted subject to producing proof of vaccination and masking requirements where they already exist.

All capacity limits for religious services, rites, ceremonies, and social gatherings will also be lifted with up to 50 people indoors with no limit for outdoors.

The government’s announcement today did not include any mention of ordering hospitals to halt non-urgent surgeries and procedures.

Elliott said it would remain in place until ICUs begin to clear of COVID-19 patients.

Expansion of PCR testing capacity, which was significantly restricted in early January to only the most high-risk individuals due to the new omicron variant was also not mentioned.