Canada

Most of Ontario COVID-19 restrictions are lifting in March. Here’s what you need to know

Nearly all of Ontario’s major COVID-19 restrictions will lift this week, bringing the province the closest it’s been to pre-pandemic life.

Since Premier Doug Ford announced a state of emergency in March 2020, the province has been in and out of lockdown. The latest round of public health measures went into effect just after the Christmas holidays, shuttering restaurants and gyms yet again while severely restricting social gathering limits.

The province began reopening just over a month ago, allowing gyms and indoor dining to resume at 50 per cent capacity.

Each part of the province’s three-step plan was supposed to be separated by at least 21 days in order for the province to monitor public health trends. However, the province announced an expedited timeline in early February, a move that would see Ontario almost fully reopened fourteen days earlier.

Ontario moved to the second phase of the plan on Feb. 17, which saw social gathering limits increase to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.

Capacity limits in settings where proof of vaccination is required were also lifted.

Venues that host sporting events or concerts were allowed 50 per cent seating capacity while indoor weddings, funerals or other religious services were capped at however many people could fit with physical distancing.

The next round of public health measures are expected to be lifted Tuesday.

The biggest change coming this week will be the lifting of Ontario’s proof of vaccination requirement for indoor non-essential settings. This means that businesses will no longer be required to ask patrons for proof of at least two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to allow entry.

Businesses can, however, choose to keep the mandate active. Some owners have told CTV News Toronto they will be requiring proof of vaccination in order to ensure the safety of their staff and for the peace of mind it brings their customers.

Vaccine requirements in industries such as long-term care and health care will remain in place for now.

Capacity limits in all other indoor public settings will also be lifted as of March 1.

Masking will remain in place; however officials have hinted the policy could be lifted sometime in March.

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health previously said the mask mandate will likely be lifted “simultaneously” across most sectors when the time comes.

Officials have also suggested that other policies may be tweaked or eliminated in the coming weeks, such as those around mandatory isolation or vaccine requirements in some workplaces.

While the lifting of these public health measures may come as a relief to many Ontario residents, at least one expert is warning that caution is still required.

Dr. Peter Juni, the scientific director of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Table, told CTV News Toronto’s Life Unmasked team that it may be necessary to put some of these measures back into place.

“The point here is, this will not be the end of the pandemic. And I know people don’t want to hear that,” he said. “We just need to be aware of that, that’s the reality. This will not immediately become endemic.”

Life Unmasked’s newest podcast episode will air on Wednesday first on the iHeart Radio app before becoming available on other streaming platforms.


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