Premier Doug Ford’s government will announce next week its new plan to lift more public health restrictions linked to COVID-19 in Ontario, TBEN News has learned.
The easing of pandemic measures will include removing capacity limits in all places where proof of vaccination requirements are in place, such as restaurants, bars and gyms, a senior official said on Wednesday. from the Ford government.
The official provided information on the government’s plans on condition of anonymity. TBEN News agreed not to name the person in charge in order to inform the public in advance of the announcement.
Ontario has been at stage 3 of what the government calls its “roadmap to reopening” since mid-July. The official said it was now time to unveil a “revised pandemic plan” that takes into account the province’s success in vaccinating the population against COVID-19, while keeping a lid on the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus.
“We owe people a clear plan to get off the roadmap,” the official said in an interview. “The work started months ago, we are finalizing the plan now and we plan to release it at the end of next week.”
The Ontario government will not lift all public health measures and “pretend the pandemic is over,” the official said, noting that interior masking requirements will remain in place.
However, the plan will indicate when physical distancing and capacity limits can be lifted in settings where proof of vaccination is not required, such as places of worship, the official said.
The plan will also indicate the conditions that would prompt the government to reimpose restrictions, in a targeted and local manner, in the event of a significant spike in new infections.
The official declined to say when next week the plan will be announced, nor to give a specific date when the relaxed measures will take effect. The government has previously said Ontario’s digital proof of vaccination app will launch on October 22, Friday of next week.
The news that more restrictions will be lifted comes as Ontario sees an average of 500 new cases of COVID-19 a day. That seven-day average figure has trended steadily downward since September 5, despite the resumption of school for the province’s two million elementary and secondary students.
The fact that in-person classes have returned without producing a peak in the total number of cases in the province is one of the main reasons the government thinks the time is right to move away from Stage 3 of the roadmap. , said the official.
Other key factors are the province’s vaccination rate and little evidence of transmission of the virus where Ontario’s passport-vaccination system has been in place since September 22.
The latest provincial figures show that 83 percent of Ontarians aged 12 and over are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and five percent have received a dose of a vaccine.
“We have observed and learned from other provinces which have acted too quickly to open up,” the official said. “We will continue to be careful.”
However, the official admits that “it was a mistake” for the government to announce the lifting of capacity limits for sports halls, cinemas and theaters, without announcing its plan for restaurants, bars and restaurants. gymnasiums. This news arrived late on Friday afternoon before the long weekend.
The move benefited Ontario NHL teams by giving the Toronto Maple Leafs the chance to play their home opener in front of full crowds on Wednesday night, and the Ottawa Senators able to play theirs. Thursday.
But that left restaurateurs seething.
Members of the Ford government and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore had previously indicated that Ontario’s primary goal was to avoid further lockdowns and that any future tightening of measures would be designed to limit local outbreaks. , with the aim of minimizing disruption in people’s lives.
The new plan will include travel advice and more details on when the province will move the proof of vaccination program from mandatory to voluntary, the official said. “Ontarians will have a better idea of what to expect in the coming months as we continue to grapple with COVID-19,” the official added.
The current description of Ontario’s plan to reopen on the province’s website states that “the majority of public health measures in place at Stage 3 will be lifted” when Ontario moves to the next phase of its response. to the pandemic.
The website says this would include removing capacity limits across all industries and removing active filtering requirements for customers and workers.
COVID-19 has been linked to the deaths of more than 9,800 people in Ontario since March 2020.