Ontario planning to lift more COVID-19 restrictions next week

With Ontario's arenas and stadiums now packed with fans, a government source tells CityNews that capacity restrictions for restaurants will be lifted in the coming weeks. Cynthia Mulligan has the details.

By News staff

The Ford government is planning to loosen more COVID-19 restrictions as COVID-19 cases continue to trend down.

A senior Ontario government source says the province will soon announce a plan to end capacity limits in venues such as restaurants and gyms.

It comes nearly a week after Ontario lifted capacity limits in sports venues, concerts halls and movie theatres.

The province had planned to eventually exit the Step 3 phase of their reopening plan, but increasing case numbers and the delta variant forced them to pause.

The source, who wasn’t authorized to speak about the pending announcement publicly, said the province will release a plan late next week for exiting Ontario’s reopening framework, which will include details on when more capacity limits can be lifted.

Masking indoors and other public health restrictions are expected to remain in effect.

Speaking on Thursday, the province’s chief medical officer of health acknowledged that the removal of vaccine certificates will be done in a phased approach, saying that eventually, some venues won’t be required to ask individuals for credentials.

Dr. Kieran Moore did say that vaccine certificates will likely remain in place for venues of mass gatherings, or where a large number of people are in close proximity.

“That safe gradual removal of health measures in Ontario has done us well all along,” Moore said.

“What we see is a phased removal of domains requiring verification of your immunization as we have very low rates across Ontario. We may not require them in some venues but will in others where we have mass gatherings happening.”

Toronto Mayor John Tory spoke with Breakfast Television on Thursday morning and said he has talked to the Premier a couple of times about loosening restrictions.

Tory added the province is “working on a change that would provide a greater degree of consistency” and a “responsible, safe return to normal life.”

Business groups have been expressing frustration and anger since the government announced late last week that it was lifting capacity limits for some settings that require proof of vaccination but not others.

Cinemas, theatres, concert venues, meeting and event spaces, and spectator sports venues were allowed to open with 100 per cent capacity as of Saturday, and physical distancing mostly isn’t required.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce said they didn’t understand why capacity limits could be lifted on those large venues, but not at small businesses such as restaurants and fitness studios.

The CFIB says small business owners are wondering why the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators can pack in fans at full capacity, while a bowling alley can’t open more than half of its lanes.

COVID-19 case numbers have been slowly decreasing with just over 300 new cases reported on Wednesday. The seven-day average also continues to trend downwards with it dropping to 500, reaching the lowest point since Aug. 19.

Vaccination numbers also continue to increase and have surpassed the province’s original metrics for exiting Step 3 with 87 per cent of the population eligible to be vaccinated having one dose and 82.5 per cent fully vaccinated.

Premier Doug Ford will hold a press conference on Friday to discuss the digital vaccine certificate application that is now available for download.

Proof-of-vaccination is currently required in most indoor settings including dine-in restaurants, gyms, indoor events and sports facilities.

With files from The Canadian Press

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