ontario lockdown

People think it's ridiculous that Ontario lockdown rules permit outdoor dining in January

New year, new lockdown, new nonsensical public health measures for everyone in Ontario to mock as businesses prepare to shutter yet again due to rising cases of COVID-19.

Effective this Wednesday, January 5, at  12:01 a.m., the entire province will move back into (a modified version of) Step 2 of its Roadmap to Reopening.

Retail stores are being capped at half occupancy, gyms must shut their doors to all but elite athletes, schools will not open as planned after the winter break for in-person learning, and movie theatres, concert halls, sports stadiums, museums and art galleries are among the "non-essential" businesses that must close to the public completely for at least 21 days.

Restaurants and bars will be impacted as well — they always are, it seems — but this time around, the government isn't shutting down on-site dining completely.

As with previous iterations of lockdown restrictions, takeout and delivery are still fully permitted at Ontario restaurants. You can hit up a drive-thru, place an order for pick-up or get what you need from your favourites that are still open via a delivery app.

You can also still technically, legally eat outside on the patio of your favourite local... if you can stomach the harsh Canadian winter weather.

Ontario Minister of Health Christine Elliott made it a point to let everybody know about the "outdoor dining" caveat when announcing the province's forthcoming crackdown on Monday.

When listing off  measures that are coming into effect, she explained that Ontario will be "closing indoor dining at restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments while permitting outdoor dining with restrictions."

These restrictions include but are not limited to a cap of 10 people per table, active patron screening and limited hours for the sale, service and consumption of booze.

Patrons must remain seated while at their tables, as before, and no dancing or singing will be allowed.

Shivering, on the other hand, darned well better be.

Upset as many people are over the fact that gyms and schools are closing, no one part of yesterday's announcement got more people talking on Twitter than the whole "outdoor dining in January" thing.

It's -4 C in Toronto today, feeling like - 12 C with the wind chill, and that's actually pretty warm compared to other parts of the province. Up in Northern Ontario, some locales are posting temperatures as low as -31 C.

Yet, even if Toronto remains relatively mild, it's still January. We still live in Canada. Eating outside isn't pleasant beyond shoving a patty into one's face while waiting for the bus.

Ontario residents seem to find the suggestion ludicrous, on the whole, and some have their own theories about why the government would include this in their plan.

"Unless I see otherwise I assume allowing OUTDOOR DINING in ONTARIO in JANUARY is simply a technicality so they can justify not providing financial supports," wrote one on Twitter.

"Outdoor dining allowed. In Ontario. In January," tweeted another. "Imagine being so tone-deaf that you announce this and actually think it would be a consolation for restaurants and bars."

Some also just see it as par for the course; The Ford government has, after all, been known to make some confusing moves when it comes to public health restrictions.

"As we continue with our provincial vaccine booster efforts, we must look at every option to slow the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant," said Premier Doug Ford of the move on Monday.

"Putting these targeted and time-limited measures in place will give us more opportunity to deliver vaccines to all Ontarians and ensure everyone has maximum protection against this virus."

If all goes well, "subject to trends in public health and health system indicators," this latest round of restrictions will end on January 26, 2022, at 12:01 a.m.

Valentine's Day will otherwise be a home affair for all but the most hardcore of Canadian winter survivors this year.

Lead photo by Caroline Meier

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