reopening ontario act

Ontario is lifting all remaining COVID restrictions and here's the full timeline

It's official: Ontario is lifting mask mandates for nearly all settings in less than two weeks, on March 21, leaving only a handful of laws in place to combat the spread of COVID-19.

By the end of April, that handful will shrink into an empty first with no restrictions left. None.

"With the peak of Omicron behind us, Ontario has been able to cautiously and gradually move through its reopening milestones. The majority of public health and workplace safety measures have now been lifted, and key public health indicators continue to improve or remain stable," said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore when announcing the news during a press conference on Wednesday morning.

"As we continue on this path, we are able to take a more balanced and long-term approach to Ontario's pandemic response."

To that effect, the province has released a new plan for lifting remaining public health and workplace safety measures, as well as for tracking key indicators moving forward. They're calling it Living With and Managing COVID-19.

The timeline for this process actually started with the lifting of vaccine passport requirements and capacity limits on March 1, 2022, marking the first time that all businesses could run at full capacity since Ontario first declared an initial state of emergency on March 17, 2020.

The next change comes along next Monday, on March 14, followed by the incremental lifting of measures and the expiration of laws up until April 27, when "all remaining measures, directives and orders end."

March 14, mandatory vaccination policies end

Letters of instruction regarding vaccines will be revoked for employees within the ministries of education, children, community and social services, seniors and accessibility and long-term care.

The province will continue to provide rapid-antigen tests to organizations and also allow organizations to retain their own immunization policies.

March 21, most mandates end

Masking requirements will be completely lifted in most places across the province on Monday, March 21, including at schools.

Places where masks must still be worn include public transit, long-term care, retirement homes and other health-care settings, congregate care settings, shelters, jails and congregate care and living settings, and homes for individuals with developmental disabilities.

March 28, Reopening Ontario Act expires

After extending emergency orders under the Reopening Ontario Act at regular intervals throughout the pandemic, the ROA — which gives the government legal power to implement strict rules on public gatherings, business closures and institutions with COVID outbreaks — will be extended for the last time. This final extension will last 30 days.

April 27, all remaining measures, directives and orders end

On April 27, 2022, the government will remove masking requirements in all remaining settings, take away any remaining emergency orders under ROA expire.

The province's Chief Medical Officer of Health will continue to provide guidance and recommendations for dealing with COVID, including the use of PPE. Ontario will continue to do RAT tests and PPE where necessary.

"With continued improvement in trends, Ontario will remove the mandatory masking requirement for most settings on March 21, with the exception of select settings such as public transit, health care settings, long-term care homes and congregate care settings," said Moore while speaking to reporters on Wednesday.

"As a society, we must remain kind, considerate and respectful toward those who continue wearing a mask. We must also expect indicators, such as cases and hospitalizations, to increase slightly as Ontarians increasingly interact with one another. However, thanks to our high vaccination rates and natural immunity, as well as the arrival of antivirals, Ontario has the tools necessary to manage the impact of the virus."

The province's top doc also thanked Ontarians for their "ongoing resilience and commitment to community" throughout the pandemic, applauding the sacrifices and collective actions that have made a difference.

"While this does not signal that COVID-19 has disappeared or that the pandemic is over, it does mean that we have come to a place where we know what we need to do to manage this virus and to keep each other safe," continued Moore.

"We need to remain vigilant. We need to stay home when sick. And, most importantly, we need to get vaccinated and boosted."

Lead photo by

Jason Cook

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