Ontario lifting COVID-19 measures by March, including mask mandate

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 The CANADIAN PRESS

Ontario is set to lift all COVID-19 public health measures by the end of March, including mask mandates, as part of a long-term plan for managing the virus.

“We’re here because we stayed cautious,” Premier Doug Ford said at a news conference on Friday. “We stayed disciplined and we never underestimated this virus. We look to other countries, other provinces, there could be no question that this was and is the right approach.”

The easing of restrictions started Monday, with capacity limits lifted in restaurants, bars, gyms, casinos and indoor meeting and event spaces.

Proof-of-vaccination requirements will start to be lifted early next year – as long as trends don’t become concerning – starting with restaurants, bars, gyms and casinos in January.

All remaining measures, including masking requirements and proof of vaccination in other settings such as sporting events, on March 28, 2022.

By then, chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore said, hopefully enough Ontarians are immunized, including children aged five to 11, so the virus can’t find hosts in which to reproduce.

“Then we will have to learn to live with this virus, but it gives us a significant amount of time to build up the immunization protection of our population,” he said.

Dr. Kali Barrett, a critical care physician and member of the science table, said it’s important that the province’s plan remain data driven, and that public health measures be reapplied locally, if needed.

Looking ahead to the January and March target dates for lifting restrictions, Barrett said it’s hard to say now if she will be comfortable with those, but she was encouraged to hear Moore say that in January he will look at the impact of the holiday season before deciding to move ahead with ending the vaccine certificate system.

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said Ford’s announcement is “putting the cart before the horse,” announcing an end to the proof-of-vaccination system when enhanced vaccine certificates only recently became available and before millions of children become eligible for vaccines.

Here’s the province’s timeline:

Nov. 15

Capacity limits lift in remaining settings where proof of vaccination is required, such as night clubs, wedding receptions in indoor event spaces, strip clubs, bath houses and sex clubs.

Jan. 17

Capacity limits begin lifting in settings where proof of vaccination is not required, depending on the COVID-19 situation.

Directives from the chief medical officer of health may also begin to lift.

Proof of vaccination limits may begin to lift.

Feb. 7

Proof of vaccination requirements may be lifted in high-risk settings such as nightclubs and bath houses, unless it’s deemed unsafe.

March 28

Remaining public health measures may be lifted unless it’s deemed unsafe, including mask mandates.

Remaining proof-of-vaccination requirements may also be lifted in remaining settings, including meeting and event spaces, concerts and cinemas.

 

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