'Widely opens door for next variant to hit': Ontario responds to Ford's plan to remove use of COVID-19 vaccine passport

·4 min read

Ontario Premier Doug Ford started the week by announcing the province will move into the next reopening phase on Thursday, Feb. 17.

As of March 1, the province will remove proof of vaccination requirements in all settings, but businesses may choose to continue to require proof of vaccination.

"Given how well Ontario has done in the Omicron wave we are able to fast track our reopening plan," a statement from Ford reads. "This is great news and a sign of just how far we've come together in our fight against the virus."

"While we aren’t out of the woods just yet we are moving in the right direction."

The eased restrictions beginning Feb. 17 at 12:01 a.m. include:

  • Increasing social gathering limits to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors

  • Increasing organized public event limits to 50 people indoors, with no limit outdoors

  • Removing capacity limits in indoor public settings where proof of vaccination is required, including:

    • 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, including 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

  • Allowing 50 per cent of the usual seating capacity at sports arenas, concert venues and theatres

  • Increasing indoor capacity limits to 25 per cent in higher-risk settings where proof of vaccination is required, including nightclubs, restaurants where there is dancing, as well as bathhouses and sex clubs

  • Increasing capacity limits for indoor weddings, funerals or religious services, rites, or ceremonies to the number of people who can maintain two metres physical distance (capacity limits are removed if the location opts-in to use proof of vaccination or if the service, rite, or ceremony is outdoors)

"Thanks to the efforts of Ontarians to help blunt the transmission of Omicron, our health care indicators suggest a general improvement in the COVID-19 situation in the province," a statement from Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario's chief medical officer of health.

"We are now in a position to lift more public health measures, but it is important to stay vigilant, as we don’t want to cause any further disruption to people’s everyday lives. We must continue to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in our communities by following the measures in place and by vaccinating those who have not yet received their doses."

Masking requirements will remain in place, with a timeline for lifting that measure to be shared "at a later date.

Several people in Ontario, including health and infectious disease experts, took to social media to comment on the upcoming changes.

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