COVID-19: Ontario closes indoor dining, gyms, movie theatres and more

In response to Omicron, the province is returning to a modified version of Step 2 of reopening, which includes smaller gatherings, capacity limits for retail and more

In a press conference this morning, Ontario premier Doug Ford announced new restrictions to curb the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Starting Wednesday, January 5 at 12:01 am, the province will return to a modified version of Step 2 in the Roadmap to Reopening plan.

Those new restrictions include closures of indoor dining at restaurants, plus indoor venues like theatres, cinemas, concert venues, sports arenas, museums and galleries.

Gyms will also be closed, while personal care services and retail settings including stores and shopping malls will be reduced to 50 per cent capacity. Weddings, funerals and religious services will be reduced to 50 per cent capacity indoors. Libraries will remain open but be limited to 50 per cent capacity.

Restaurants will still be allowed to do outdoor dining with restrictions, as well as takeout and delivery.

Indoor gatherings will be restricted to five people, down from 10.

These restrictions follow a wave of previous rules, which included restrictions on COVID testing and an indoor crowd limit of 1,000.

Ford says the reopening plan required additional measures if two factors arose: a new variant and the threatening of the healthcare system. Both have happened, he said.

The province is reaching record numbers of new cases almost on a daily basis, and though the Omicron variant is relatively mild – approximately 1 per cent of cases end up in the hospital – the spread is fast enough that it is overwhelming hospitals. Modelling shows they could be thousands of hospital beds short in the next few weeks. “Math is not on our side,” Ford said.

Along with the new restrictions, Ford promised “extended support for small businesses” and “fast-tracking more supports.” The details of those programs were not announced today. The federal government recently introduced the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit, which provides $300 a week for people who can’t work due to COVID-19 lockdowns.

After being delayed for two days, indoor learning at schools will now be delayed for two weeks. Students will instead switch to online education.

Hospitals will also pause all non-emergency procedures.

Ford stressed that the measures are “targeted and time limited” and designed to “blunt the latest wave.” They are intended to ease hospitals and allow time to administer booster shots of the COVID vaccines. They hope to “slow the spread,” he said, but not stop it “because it can’t be stopped.”


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