TORONTO — The Ontario government has released a three-step plan to gradually ease public-health measures, starting on January 31.
Effective Jan. 31, 2022, Ontario will increase social-gathering limits to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors. Indoor-capacity limits will be capped at 50 per cent for restaurants, bars, meeting and event spaces, gyms and more.
Effective Feb. 21, 2022, Ontario will increase social-gathering limits to 25 people indoors and 100 people outdoors, remove capacity limits for indoor public settings, such as bars and restaurants where proof of vaccination is required and permit 50-per-cent capacity at sporting events and concert venues.
Finally, effective Mar. 14, 2022, Ontario will increase social-gathering limits to 50 people indoors with no limits for outdoor gatherings, lift capacity limits for all indoor public settings and lift remaining capacity limits on religious services or ceremonies.
“The evidence tells us that the measures we put in place to blunt transmission of Omicron are working,” said Premier Doug Ford in a press conference last week. “We can be confident that the worst is behind us and that we are now in a position to cautiously and gradually ease public-health measures. While February will continue to present its own challenges, given current trends these are challenges we’re confident we can manage.”
“Thanks to the sacrifices of Ontarians, we’re starting to see glimmers of hope. However, we know the coming weeks will continue to pose challenges, especially for our hospital partners,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health at the press conference. “As we continue to chart our path forward, we will continue to take a gradual and cautious approach to lifting public-health measures to protect our hospital capacity and ensure patients can continue to access the care they need.”
Restaurants Canada released a statement Thursday saying it appreciates the announcement from the Ontario government.
“While our Ontario members were hopeful they would be able to welcome back guests after the most recently imposed public-health order was set to end on Jan. 26, they are relieved by the provincial government’s commitment to start phasing out dining restrictions and look forward to making preparations to re-open at half capacity on Jan. 31,” reads the statement.
In the meantime, the association is continuing to call for the following measures to ensure restaurants can survive and recover:
- A deferral of HST payments to help restaurants preserve cash flow;
- An increase in funding available through the Ontario COVID-19 Small Business Relief Grant, as well as an expansion of the eligibility requirements — this program currently fails to ensure hard-hit restaurant operators with more than 100 staff across multiple locations will be able to access sufficient support to cover closing and re-opening costs for each of their establishments;
- A re-imposition of Ontario’s moratorium on commercial tenant evictions, which expired on Dec. 31, 2021.