Ontario announces new indoor capacity limits at so many different venues
New indoor capacity limits will be coming into effect across Ontario, Premier Doug Ford announced this afternoon, as the Omicron variant spreads like wildfire, driving up daily case counts at a rapid pace and further delaying reopening plans.
With 1,808 new cases of COVID-19 reported in the province this morning — the most we've seen since May — officials are now concerned to the point where they're not only "pausing" plans but actually going backwards in terms of restrictions.
Effective December 18, 2021, at 12:01 a.m. (Saturday morning), most indoor venues with a usual capacity of 1,000 people or more will be capped at 50 per cent provincewide.
The following venue types will be subject to this rule, per the government's Wednesday announcement:
The province says these measures are "being taken to reduce opportunities for close contact in high-risk indoor settings with large crowds and when face coverings/masks are not always worn."
Comments made by Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore on Tuesday had Ontarians speculating that limits were also coming for personal gatherings and businesses such as bars restaurants, but this is not the case.
Ford clarified during his press conference on Wednesday that only large venues will need to operate at 50 per cent capacity come December 18.
"Let's be very clear: You've got to target the largest venues, and the largest venures are the sports games, large concerts," said Ford when asked about why only facilities with capacities over 1,000 were being restricted.
"You know, people aren't masking, as much as they're implored to mask. They all aren't masking. You're sitting inside by side for hours."
The premier went on to say that comparing restaurants and large venues is akin to comparing apples and bananas.
"Apples and bananas, as far as I'm concerned, not even apples and oranges. They have strict protocols in these restaurants and they've done an incredible job there, spacing people out, and they're being masked unless you're eating," said Ford.
"There's a big difference between the restaurant and 20,000 people in that arena."
Moore said similarly that measures being to combat Omicron are unique to this variant, which he said yesterday is transmissible to four to eight more people than the Delta variant.
"We're having to change our direction in the face of a new enemy. Omicron is much more infectious and there is a potential that it can spread in the air and large venues like that can be mass gathering threats of spread."
In addition to capacity limits, Moore says the province also wants to see increased ventilation and greater oversight of mask use in large venues.
The availability of booster shots for people 18 and over has also been expedited on account of Omicron: Ontario announced today that all adults will be eligible for third doses beginning Monday, December 20.
"As we combat the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant, nothing matters more than getting these booster doses into people's arms" said Ford this afternoon.
"I am issuing a call to arms. We need every member of Team Ontario to stand tall and do their part as we work to protect our hard-fought progress and keep Ontarians safe."
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