Ontario's top doctor has said massages aren't allowed during lockdown – but the health ministry says otherwise
Update (December 21, 2020): Ontario will suspend the colour-coded COVID-19 response framework at 12:01 am on December 26 as part of a “province-wide shutdown.” The suspension will remain in effect for 28 days in Southern Ontario and 14 days in Northern Ontario. More information on the new restrictions here.
Lockdown restrictions took effect in Toronto and Peel Region on November 23, but communication around what health-related practices can continue, including massage therapists, has been unclear.
At last Friday’s press conference announcing the lockdown for Ontario’s two hotspot regions, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams refrained from giving any specifics when asked about which personal care services would be closed.
Under the “grey” lockdown measures according to the Ministry of Health’s guidelines, personal care services must close, including nail salons and hair salons.
A reporter asked Williams about massage therapists, among other services, and where the province is drawing the line between essential and non-essential services. Williams didn’t address massage therapists directly.
“The point we’re emphasizing is essential services,” he said, adding that dentists can book an appointment for a patient seeking emergency services. Williams explained the province would put out more information addressing specific services.
However, on Monday morning Williams did an interview on the lockdown protocols on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning. When asked if people can get a massage, he said, “No, because it’s face-to-face contact.”
But a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health has confirmed to NOW that massage therapists can continue to operate during the 28-day lockdown in Toronto and Peel Region.
The College of Massage Therapists of Ontario (CMTO) is also advising registered massage therapists to continue practising.
“Under the lockdown level of the Keeping Ontario Safe and Open Framework, regulated health professionals including massage therapists, dentists, optometrists, chiropractic services, ophthalmologists, physical and occupational therapists and podiatrists are able to operate,” the Ministry of Health confirmed in a statement.
The CMTO noted in an update to members that while massage therapists are not directly impacted by the lockdown restrictions, some massage therapists who work in spas or gyms will be impacted as those businesses must close.
NOW has reached out to the Ministry of Health regarding additional clarification around massage therapy services during lockdown and on Williams’ comments to Metro Morning.