Ontario isn't getting rid of mask mandates yet but here's when it can happen
Though the provincial government has just announced that Ontario's reopening timeline is being expedited — up to and including the removal of controversial vaccine passport rules on March 1 — any amendments to mask mandates are markedly not among the big changes on the way for businesses and residents in the coming days.
Premier Doug Ford shared on Monday morning that the second phase of loosening COVID-19 restrictions, originally set to start on Feb. 21, will instead commence later this week on Feb. 17 — the new date that capacity limits in most settings will be eliminated (save for large-scale event venues and high-risk sectors) and gathering limits will expand to 50 indoors and 100 outdoors.
Similarly, the third phase, which was slated to kick off on March 14, will now start on March 1, and will include the withdrawal of pandemic capacity limits in all public settings, the introduction of even higher caps for private social get-togethers and the aforementioned end of the proof-of-vaccination requirement.
But, still missing from this new plan, as was the case with the plan announced in late January following the stricter public health measures and business closures imposed on Jan. 5, is a proposed end to the rule requiring face coverings in all public indoor places provincewide.
No end to mask mandates or vaccine passports in Ontario's new reopening plan https://t.co/iqgrs9JZKu #Ontario #ONpoli— blogTO (@blogTO) January 20, 2022
Ford assured that the measure won't be in place forever, but did confirm that, unlike in Saskatchewan, masking will remain a compulsory practice in Ontario.
"Based on the advice of [Chief Medical Officer of Health] Dr. Moore and what we have learned over the pandemic, we will need to keep masking in place for just a little bit longer," the premier said during this morning's press conference about the changes to the reopening plan.
"This is an important layer of protection that will allow us to proceed with our reopening plan safely."
BREAKING: Ontario announces it will ease COVID mandates. The gov't says it will remove vax passports on March 1st & lift capacity limits starting Feb. 17. Mask mandates will, however, remain.— Election Wizard 🇺🇸 (@ElectionWiz) February 14, 2022
The gov't denies that the lifting of restrictions is a result of the Freedom Convoys.
When pressed on the topic, though, Dr. Moore did give an idea of when the directive can be dropped: as soon as two weeks after the onset of phase 3, which would be March 15.
"All of the metrics are improving dramatically... so we'll continue to monitor those data sets, as well as the ongoing availability of PCR testing, to make a decision on masking," Moore told reporters.
"We're opening up on the 17th and again on the first, and after that time period, typically two weeks thereafter, we'll review all of the data and make further decisions on any other public health measures."
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