Restrictions are changing in Ontario this week and here's what you need to know
March 1 marks yet another big change in pandemic restrictions in Ontario as the province gradually reopens on its new, expedited timeline that will make things feel closer to normal this week than we've seen in some time.
The original plan included three phases due to start 21 days apart on Jan. 31, Feb. 21 and March 13, respectively, until Premier Doug Ford made the welcome announcement last week that things were being sped up due to the steady improvement of key health indicators.
Already in phase one at the time of the decision, the province quickly graduated into phase two at 12:01 a.m. on Feb. 17, when social gathering limits were raised (from 10 indoors and 25 out to 50 indoors and 100 out); capacity limits in settings such as bars, restaurants, cinemas and gyms were completely removed; limits for large-scale event spaces like sports arenas and concert halls were upped to 50 per cent capacity; and more.
Now, as we enter phase 3 at 12:01 a.m. on March 1, things will lift even more, with the removal of all capacity limits in all indoor settings — including "high-risk" ones like nightclubs and bath houses — as well as the elimination of restrictions on social get-togethers.
Also this week comes the biggest amendment of all: the shedding of the controversial vaccine passport for entry to most public indoor settings (which will hopefully mean no more noisy protests).
The move comes in the wake of similar decisions by other provincial governments to loosen their proof-of-vaccination and mask mandates — though in Ontario, the use of face coverings will continue for at least a little while longer, likely until at least 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," the province's chief medical officer of health told reporters earlier this month, though Ford and his team had previously made it seem that masks would be here to stay for some time.
"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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