gathering limits ontario

These are the new gathering limits in Ontario as Doug Ford speeds up reopening

Ontario's social gathering limits are changing once again, Premier Doug Ford announced today, no doubt thrilling people who love to host parties, have large extended families, or simply want to get married in this province some time before the apocalypse.

Effective this Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, at 12:01 a.m., people hosting their own social gatherings will be allowed to welcome as many as 50 people indoors, up from the current limit of just 10.

Outdoor gathering limits will rise from 25 to 100 for private parties, and disappear completely for "organized public events" held outside.

Limits will also be lifted on Thursday for indoor weddings, funerals and religious ceremonies to "the number of people who can maintain two metres physical distance." Same goes for retail stores, malls, pharmacies, supermarkets and similar indoor public settings.

As for bars, restaurants, gyms, event spaces, conference centres, casinos and select other indoor settings where proof of vaccination is currently required, capacity limits will be gone as of Feb. 17.

"Higher-risk settings" including sex clubs, bathhouses, nightclubs and pretty much any place where dancing is allowed will have limits raised to 25 per cent on Thursday, while limits of 50 per cent capacity will remain in place at sports venues, concert venues and theatres until the end of February.

Come March 1, if public health indicators are stable, Ontario plans to eliminate capacity limits entirely in all spaces as it scraps the government's vaccine passport system.

"Masking requirements will remain in place at this time, with a specific timeline to lift this measure to be communicated at a later date," wrote the province in a release announcing its expedited reopening timeline on Monday. 

"To manage COVID-19 over the long-term, public health units can deploy local and regional responses based on local context and conditions."

In other words, unless Toronto Public Health issues its own Section 22 Order commanding local businesses to reintroduce capacity limits, this city should be a lot livelier both indoors and outside once March arrives.

Some Ontarians are nervous about the government's plan to scrap proof-of-vaccination requirements for bars, restaurants and gyms in just a few weeks, but the loosening of restrictions for social gatherings seems to be welcome news after years of back-and-forth confusion.

Social gathering limits came into effect across the province again after a long period of relative laxity in December of 2021 as the Omicron wave picked up steam.

First cut back to cut 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors on Dec. 19., ahead of the holidays, limits were tightened even further when the province reverted back to a "modified Step 2" of reopening on Jan. 5.

Gathering limits were slashed to just five people indoors and 10 people outdoors provincewide on Jan. 5, then raised on Jan. 31 under the Ford government's latest reopening plan to allow for 10 people inside and 25 outdoors.

Based on the province's own (rarely followed) 21-day-per-stage rule, the restrictions in place right now were meant to last until 12:01 a.m. on Feb. 21., at which point both social and organized gatherings would go up to an indoor/outdoor limit of 25 and 100 respectively.

The process has simply been expedited, for the most part, in terms of gathering limits at least (we previously had no idea when and if the vaxpass program would be lifted).

"Thanks to the province's high vaccination rates and the continued sacrifices of Ontarians, we are now in a position where we can move forward in our plan earlier than anticipated," said Minister of Health Christine Elliott on Monday.

"With hospitalizations and ICU admissions continuing to decline, we are committed to maintaining a gradual and cautious approach to protect our hospital capacity and ensure patients can access the care they need when they need it."

Lead photo by

Jack Landau

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