TORONTO — Last week, the Ontario government unveiled its timeline to lift remaining COVID-19 restrictions, including the mask mandate.
Effective today, mandatory vaccination policies will end. Effective Mar. 21, masking requirements will be removed in most indoor settings, including schools, except for public transit, long-term care and retirement homes, healthcare settings, congregate care settings, shelters and jails. Self-isolation mandates for COVID-19-exposed people or symptom-screening requirements in most situations will also be lifted. Effective Mar. 28, the Re-opening Ontario Act expires, but the remaining orders associated with the act are extended for 30 days. Finally, effective Apr. 27, mask requirements will be removed in all remaining settings.
“With the peak of Omicron behind us, Ontario has been able to cautiously and gradually move through its re-opening 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 Dr. Kieran Moore, Chief Medical Officer of Health in a statement. “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 anti-virals, Ontario has the tools necessary to manage the impact of the virus.”
For hospitality businesses in Ontario, Tony Elenis, president and CEO of Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association (ORHMA) says there will likely be a mixed reaction to lifting mask mandates.
“The mass population has experienced the virus and a new definition of protocols has shifted government health policies. While the vast majority of hospitality businesses will not require the mask once the mandate ends, there will be some [operators] that will listen to their own guests and continue cautiously until guests are more confident,” says Elenis.