Ontario’s most mask mandates to drop March 21, other pandemic rules to lift by April end

Representative image of people without masks. Credit: Pixaby/Paul Bara

Ottawa/CMEDIA: Most mask mandates would be scrapped across the province on March 21 including in schools, restaurants, and stores, and the province’s remaining COVID-19 regulations are also set to reportedly drop by the end of April. 

These steps are possible, says the province due to improved health indicators, such as a stable COVID-19 test positivity rate and declining hospitalizations, Ontario’s high vaccination rates, and the availability of antiviral treatments.

Meanwhile, public transit, long-term care, retirement homes, shelters, jails and congregate care and living settings would follow the mask mandates

Dr. Kieran Moore, the province’s chief medical officer of health announced the new changes Wednesday at Queen’s Park. 

“We are now learning to live with and manage COVID-19 for the long term,” Moore said in his last regularly scheduled COVID-19 update. “This necessitates a shift to a more balanced response to the pandemic.”

Moore added that removing the mask mandate “does not mean the risk is gone,” and that masking requirements may need to be reinstated if there is another spike in COVID-19 cases.

Moore cautioned vulnerable people to continue to take follow public health measures despite the easing of restrictions.

Effective March 14, employees at schools, child-care settings, hospitals, and long-term care homes will also be exempted from mandatory vaccination policies.

The Reopening Ontario Act (ROA), allowing the government to issue public health orders at the provincial level, will also expire on March 28 subject to a final extension of all the emergency orders in place for 30 days after that date.

At a separate news conference Wednesday, Premier Doug Ford said that the choice to wear a mask beyond March 21 will be a personal one.

“It’s going to be up to the people of Ontario, if you want to keep the mask on, keep it on,” Ford said. “If you want to take it off, take it off. But we have to move forward from this, people are exhausted and the poor kids in those classrooms too. Like we got to move on.”

The province already began last week lifting proof-of-vaccination rules for certain businesses as well as capacity limits for businesses and social gatherings.

All restrictions including mask requirements and emergency orders would reportedly be lifted on April 27 including cohorting and daily on-site screening in schools, and passive screening and safety plans for businesses

Meanwhile, Ontario is also expanding its list of settings eligible for PCR testing to include home and community care settings and provincial demonstration schools.

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