Beginning Wednesday Jan. 5, at 12:01 a.m., for at least 21 days (until Jan. 26), Ontario will “temporarily” move the province to a modified step two version of its Roadmap to Reopen in response to the Omicron variant.
Premier Doug Ford’s cabinet made the announcement on Monday afternoon, stating that the move will help “blunt transmission” and prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed, as the province continues to accelerate its booster dose rollout.
“If we don’t do everything possible to get this variant under control, the results could be catastrophic. It is a risk I cannot take,” Ford said at the press conference.
As part of the new measures, all publicly funded and private schools will move to remote learning from January 5 until at least January 17 (subject to public health trends/operational considerations).
School buildings will be permitted to open for childcare operations, including emergency childcare, to provide in-person instruction for students with special education needs who cannot be accommodated remotely, and for staff who are unable to deliver quality instruction from home. During this period, free emergency childcare will be provided for school-aged children of healthcare and other eligible frontline workers.
The new measures, as of Jan. 5, will also include:
- Reducing social gathering limits to five people indoors and 10 people outdoors.
- Limiting capacity at organized public events to five people indoors.
- Requiring businesses and organizations to ensure employees work remotely (unless the nature of their work requires them to be on-site).
- Limiting capacity at indoor weddings, funerals, and religious services, rites, and ceremonies to 50% capacity of the particular room. Outdoor services are limited to the number of people that can maintain 2 metres of physical distance. Social gatherings associated with these services must adhere to the social gathering limits.
- Retail settings, including shopping malls, permitted at 50% capacity. For shopping malls physical distancing will be required in line-ups, loitering will not be permitted and food courts will be required to close.
- Personal care services permitted at 50% capacity and other restrictions. Saunas, steam rooms, and oxygen bars closed.
- Closing indoor meeting and event spaces with limited exceptions but permitting outdoor spaces to remain open with restrictions.
- Public libraries limited to 50% capacity.
- Closing indoor dining at restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments. Outdoor dining with restrictions, takeout, drive-throughs, and delivery are permitted.
- Restricting the sale of alcohol after 10 p.m. and the consumption of alcohol on-premise in businesses or settings after 11 p.m., with delivery and takeout, grocery/convenience stores, and other liquor stores exempted.
- Closing indoor concert venues, theatres, cinemas, rehearsals, and recorded performances permitted with restrictions.
- Closing museums, galleries, zoos, science centres, landmarks, historic sites, botanical gardens and similar attractions, amusement parks and waterparks, tour and guide services and fairs, rural exhibitions, and festivals. Outdoor establishments permitted to open with restrictions and with spectator occupancy, where applicable, limited to 50 per cent capacity.
- Closing indoor horseracing tracks, car racing tracks and other similar venues. Outdoor establishments permitted to open with restrictions and with spectator occupancy limited to 50 per cent capacity. Boat tours permitted at 50 per cent capacity.
- Closing indoor sport and recreational fitness facilities including gyms, except for athletes training for the Olympics and Paralympics and select professional and elite amateur sports leagues. Outdoor facilities are permitted to operate but with the number of spectators not to exceed 50 per cent occupancy and other requirements.
Social media reaction is mixed, with many stating that the restrictions should have been in place prior to the holidays.
Holy crap I’m screaming at my tv drs nrs and the public have been warning you for weeks the impact this would have. Should have acted way earlier. It’s too late.
— Raun tsuyuki (@TsuyukiRauni) January 3, 2022
Meanwhile, on Monday, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott reported 13,578 new cases of COVID-19 a moderate decrease from the 16,714 new cases reported on Sunday and the record-breaking 18,445 cases recorded on Saturday. The seven-day average is now 14,074 (up from 7,550 cases reported one week ago).
According to Elliott, 1,232 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 (up from 1,117 reported the previous day), and there are 248 people are in ICU with COVID-19 (an increase of 24 compared to Sunday). The seven-day rolling average of COVID-19 related patients in ICU is 210 (Elliott added that not all hospitals report on weekends).
Elliott also noted that in Ontario, 27,422,363 vaccine doses have been administered, with over 89,000 doses administered yesterday; 90.8% of Ontarians 12+ have one dose and 88.2% have two doses (but don’t expect vaccine certificates to go away anytime soon).
Ontarians can visit Ontario.ca/holidaytesting for more info on pop-up rapid antigen screening sites.