ontario premier announcement today

Ontario just announced an end to all COVID capacity limits and here's the timeline

In a rare Monday morning announcement, Ontario Premier Doug Ford has revealed a new, expedited timeline for lifting (most) current COVID-related public health restrictions, beginning with the removal of capacity limits at bars, restaurants, cinemas, gyms and more this coming Thursday.

Then, on March 1, we'll see capacity limits eliminated for all indoor spaces, as well as the nixxing of Ontario's controversial vaccine passport system.

Citing an improvement in key public health system indicators and advice from Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore, the province announced today that it will continue "cautiously and gradually" easing new health measures that were put into place amid the Omicron wave in early January.

It'll just be doing so a little less cautiously and a lot less gradually than initially planned.

The next phase of reopening, initially slated to begin on Feb. 21 (based on the province's own 21-day-per-stage rule), will now commence at 12:01 a.m. on February 17.

As this time, the province says it will be taking the following actions:

  • Increasing social gathering limits to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors
  • Increasing organized public event limits to 50 people indoors, with no limit outdoors
  • Removing capacity limits in the following indoor public settings where proof of vaccination is required, including but not limited to:
    • Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments without dance facilities
    • Non-spectator areas of sports and recreational fitness facilities, including gyms
    • Cinemas
    • Meeting and event spaces, including conference centres or convention centres
    • Casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments
    • Indoor areas of settings that choose to opt-in to proof of vaccination requirements.
  • Allowing 50 per cent of the usual seating capacity at sports arenas
  • Allowing 50 percent of the usual seating capacity for concert venues and theatres
  • Increasing indoor capacity limits to 25 per cent in the remaining higher-risk settings where proof of vaccination is required, including nightclubs, restaurants where there is dancing, as well as bathhouses and sex clubs
  • Increasing capacity limits for indoor weddings, funerals or religious services, rites or ceremonies to the number of people who can maintain two metres physical distance. Capacity limits are removed if the location opts-in to use proof of vaccination or if the service, rite or ceremony is occurring outdoors.

Capacity limits will either remain in place or increase to the number of people able to maintain social distance for a few weeks in all "other indoor public settings, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, retail and shopping malls."

Then, on March 1, if health system indicators continue to improve, all remaining indoor capacity limits will be lifted.

"Ontario will also lift proof of vaccination requirements for all settings at this time. Businesses and other settings may choose to continue to require proof of vaccination," reads a press release announcing the changes.

"Masking requirements will remain in place at this time, with a specific timeline to lift this measure to be communicated at a later date."

"Given how well Ontario has done in the Omicron wave we are able to fast track our reopening plan," said Ford during his surprise presser Monday morning.

"This is great news and a sign of just how far we've come together in our fight against the virus. While we aren't out of the woods just yet we are moving in the right direction."

"Thanks to the efforts of Ontarians to help blunt the transmission of Omicron, our health care indicators suggest a general improvement in the COVID-19 situation in the province," said Dr. Moore similarly. 

"We are now in a position to lift more public health measures, but it is important to stay vigilant, 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."

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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