Ontario reveals 3-step reopening plan, most restrictions to be eased mid-March

Ontario hopes to lift most of its COVID-19 public health measures by mid-March according to the 3-step reopening plan shared by the province today.

Premier Doug Ford, Health Minister Christine Elliott and the province’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kieran Moore briefed reporters on the monthly easing of restrictions which will begin January 31. The first phase of reopening includes increasing social gathering limits and allowing indoor dining and gyms to resume operations at 50% capacity.

“We can be confident that the worst is behind us and that we are now in a position to cautiously and gradually ease public health measures,” said Premier Doug Ford. “While February will continue to present its own challenges, given current trends these are challenges we are confident we can manage,” he added.

Step 1 – Monday January 31

Social gathering limits will be increased to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors as part of the plan.

Additionally capacity limits will be increased to or maintained at 50 per cent in a number of indoor public settings including restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments without dance facilities; retailers (including grocery stores and pharmacies); shopping malls; non-spectator areas of sports and recreational fitness facilities, including gyms; cinemas; meeting and event spaces; recreational amenities and amusement parks, including water parks; museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos and similar attractions; casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments; and religious services, rites, or ceremonies.

Spectator areas of facilities such as sporting events, concert venues and theatres will operate at 50 per cent seated capacity or 500 people, whichever is less.

Enhanced proof of vaccination, and other requirements would continue to apply in existing settings, provincial officials said.

Step 2 – February 21

Ontario will ease public health measures further, including increasing social gathering limits to 25 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.

Capacity limits in indoor public settings where proof of vaccination is required will be removed, including but not limited to restaurants, indoor sports and recreational facilities, cinemas, as well as other settings that choose to opt-in to proof of vaccination requirements.

Spectator capacity at sporting events, concert venues, and theatres will be increased to 50 per cent capacity.

Capacity will continue to be limited in most remaining indoor public settings where proof of vaccination is not required to the number of people that can maintain two metres of physical distance.

Indoor religious services, rites or ceremonies capacity will be limited to the number that can maintain two metres of physical distance, with no limit if proof of vaccination is required.

Indoor capacity limits will increase to 25 per cent in the remaining higher-risk settings where proof of vaccination is required, including nightclubs, wedding receptions in meeting or event spaces where there is dancing, as well as bathhouses and sex clubs.

Enhanced proof of vaccination, and other requirements would continue to apply in existing settings.

“Thanks to the sacrifices of Ontarians we are starting to see glimmers of hope. However we know the coming weeks will continue to pose challenges, especially for our hospital partners,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “As we continue to chart our path forward, we will continue to take a gradual and cautious approach to lifting public health measures to protect our hospital capacity and ensure patients can continue to access the care they need.”

Step 3 – March 14

Ontario will ease most public health measures in the final phase of its 3-step reopening plan.

This includes lifting capacity limits in all indoor public settings. However proof of vaccination will be maintained in existing settings in addition to other regular measures.

Remaining capacity limits on religious services, rites, or ceremonies will also be removed.

Social gathering limits will increase to 50 people indoors with no limits for outdoor gatherings.

To manage COVID-19 over the long-term, local and regional responses by public health units may be deployed based on local context and conditions, the province stated.

“Thanks to the efforts of Ontarians going out to get their booster dose and adhering to current public health and workplace safety measures, we are in a position where we can begin planning to gradually and cautiously ease restrictions,” said Dr. Kieran Moore, Chief Medical Officer of Health. “The months ahead will require continued vigilance, as we don’t want to cause any further disruption to people’s everyday lives. We must continue to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in our communities by following the measures in place and by vaccinating those who have not yet received their doses.”

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