Ontario removing proof of vaccination and COVID-19 capacity limits

Changes in public health measures: what they are and when they take effect.

The lockdown in Ontario may be over sooner than you think. The province is easing public health measures ahead of schedule. Non-emergency surgeries are already back on the table, now capacity limits for businesses like bars, restaurants and fitness centres will be removed in the next phase of the province’s reopening plan starting Thursday, followed by a plan to end proof of vaccination requirements in less than two weeks.

“Given how well Ontario has done in the Omicron wave we are able to fast track our reopening plan … While we aren’t out of the woods just yet we are moving in the right direction,” said Ontario Premier Doug Ford. 

Coming out of lockdown and easing into reopening, the province says capacity limits for social gatherings inside will increase to 50 people, 100 if the gathering is outside. The capacity is also 50 for organized public events happening inside but there are no limits on events that are happening outdoors.

The numbers differ depending on the kind of gathering it is and where it’s being held. Some businesses may have a vaccine policy that requires anyone entering to show proof of vaccination, also known as a vaccine passport.

If bars, restaurants, cinemas, gyms, conference and gaming facilities have a proof of vaccination policy in place, there are no COVID-19-related limits on the number of people that can be inside those businesses at the same time.

Sports arenas, concert halls and theatres have increased to half of their usual seating capacity. The province says, that venues that have a proof of vaccination policy such as nightclubs, restaurants where there is dancing, bathhouses and sex clubs, where people have a higher risk of getting COVID-19, will see an increase to 25 per cent of the venue’s usual seating capacity.

“Indoor weddings, funerals or religious services, rites, or ceremonies” have no capacity limits as long as people can keep two metres apart. Capacity limits will be lifted completely if the location opts-in to use proof of vaccination or if the service, rite, or ceremony happens outside.

Places like grocery stores, pharmacies, retail centres and shopping malls will have no caps at all either, and as usual, vaccine passports are not required to enter these spaces.

Fewer people are testing positive for COVID-19 since last month. The number of people with the virus being admitted to hospitals and ICUs in Ontario have gone down. The downward trend is likely to continue. That’s one reason why the province decided to ease restrictions.

We’re doing well enough for the province to approve non-urgent and non-emergency surgeries, and medical procedures again as of last week.

We are able to reopen the province sooner than planned because of the high vaccination rates and the sacrifices that people in Ontario have made, said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. 

Restrictions lifting February 17

Here are some of the measures that take effect on February 17, 2022 at 12:01 a.m.:

  1. Increasing social gathering
    • 50 people indoors and
    • 100 people outdoors
  2. Increasing organized public events
    • 50 people indoors, 
    • no limit outdoors
  3. Removing capacity limits for indoor public settings where proof of vaccination is required, such as:
    • Restaurants, bars, and other food or drink establishments without dance facilities
    • Non-spectator areas of sports and recreational fitness facilities, including gyms
    • Cinemas
    • Meeting and event spaces; conference centres or convention centres
    • Casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments
    • Indoor areas of settings that choose to opt-in to proof of vaccination requirements.
  4. Allowing 50 per cent of the usual seating capacity:
    •  sports arenas
    • concert venues and 
    • theatres
  5. Increasing indoor capacity to 25 per cent in the remaining higher-risk settings where proof of vaccination is required:
    • nightclubs, 
    • restaurants where there is dancing, 
    • bathhouses and 
    • sex clubs
  6. Increasing capacity to the number of people who can maintain two metres physical distance.
    • indoor weddings, 
    • funerals,
    • religious services,
    • rites and
    • ceremonies 
    • Capacity limits are removed if the location chooses to use proof of vaccination or if the event is outside.
  7. Indoor public settings with no COVID-related capacity limits:
    • grocery stores, 
    • pharmacies, 
    • retail centres and 
    • shopping malls

Capacity limits in other indoor public settings will either stay the same or increase to maintain physical distance. People should stay two metres apart in places like grocery stores, pharmacies, retail centres and shopping malls. There are no COVID-related capacity limits for those spaces.

Booster shots for young people

As of 8:00 a.m. on Friday, February 18, 2022, Ontario is allowing COVID-19 booster shots to young people 12 to 17 years old. Appointments can be booked through the provincial booking system and the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre, as well as at select pharmacies administering the Pfizer vaccine. Appointments will be booked for approximately six months (168 days) after a second dose. To book an appointment online, individuals must be 12 years old at the time of appointment.

Indoor public caps lifted March 1

Ontario will remove capacity limits for all indoor public settings on March 1, 2022 if COVID-19 health conditions continue to improve. 

Proof of vaccination lifted March 1

The province will also lift proof of vaccination requirements for all settings on March 1, 2022 if it’s safe to do so.

Some businesses and other settings may choose to continue to require proof of vaccination. Masking requirements will remain in place for the time being. A specific timeline to lift this measure will be decided on at a later date.

To manage COVID-19 over the long-term, public health units are able to put plans in place based on the situation in their local areas.

Ontarians have lowered transmission of the Omicron strain of the coronavirus. “Our health care indicators suggest a general improvement in the COVID-19 situation in the province,” said Dr. Kieran Moore, Chief Medical Officer of Health. 

Now that there are fewer people infected with COVID-19, Ontario is well on its way to lifting public health measures that were put in place months ago.

by Cherryl Bird – Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Twitter @ladycbird | Instagram @cherrylbird

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