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Ontario returning to modified step two of Roadmap to Reopen

Ford says province facing a 'tsunami' of new cases
2021-12-17 doug ford
Premier Doug Ford during a virtual news on Dec. 15, 2021.

With Ontario facing a "tsunami" of new cases, Premier Doug Ford said Ontario is bracing for impact. A host of temporary restrictions are being implemented this week including lowering social gathering limits, closing gyms and indoor dining, and moving schools to virtual learning. 

Ford made the announcement today surrounded by top cabinet ministers and Ontario chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore. Ford said there's an alarming number of new hospital admissions and one per cent of people who get the highly contagious omicron variant will end up in hospital.

Jan. 5, the province is returning to a modified step two of the Roadmap to Reopen. The measures will be in effect for at least 21 days (Jan. 26). 

It means schools will not return to in-person learning on Wednesday, Jan. 5. There will be virtual learning until at least Jan. 17.

All non-urgent and non-emergent surgeries and procedures are also being paused.

The new measures include: 

  • Social gatherings are limited to five people indoors and 10 people outdoors.
  • Organized public events are limited to five people indoors.
  • People must work remotely unless their work requires them to be on-site.
  • Limiting capacity at indoor weddings, funerals, and religious services, rites and ceremonies to 50 per cent capacity of the particular room. Outdoor services are limited to the number of people that can maintain physical distancing. Social gatherings associated with these services must adhere to the social gathering limits.
  • Retail settings, including shopping malls, can open at 50 per cent capacity. For shopping malls physical distancing will be required in line-ups, loitering will not be permitted and food courts will be closed.
  • Personal care services permitted at 50 per cent capacity and other restrictions. Saunas, steam rooms, and oxygen bars closed.
  • Indoor meeting and event spaces will be closed, with limited exceptions. Outdoor spaces can open with restrictions.
  • Public libraries limited to 50 per cent capacity.
  • Closing indoor dining at restaurants and bars. Outdoor dining is allowed with restrictions, as well as takeout, drive-through and delivery.
  • 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 horse racing tracks, car racing tracks and other similar venues. Outdoor establishments can 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 sport leagues. Outdoor facilities are permitted to operate but with the number of spectators not to exceed 50 per cent occupancy and other requirements.
  • School buildings are allowed to open for child care operations, including emergency child care, 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 of remote learning, free emergency child care will be provided for school-aged children of health care and other eligible frontline workers.

The Ontario Business Costs Rebate Program is being expanded. 

Businesses that close or have capacity reduced because of the changes are eligible for rebate payments for a portion of the property tax and energy costs. 

"Eligible businesses required to reduce capacity to 50 per cent, such as smaller retail stores, will receive a rebate payment equivalent to 50 per cent of their costs, while businesses required to close for indoor activities, such as restaurants and gyms, will receive a rebate payment equivalent to 100 per cent of their costs," reads the news release.

The full list of businesses eligible for it is expected later this month.

New Year's Day, a record 18,445 new COVID-19 cases were reported in Ontario.

Today, 13,578 new COVID-19 cases were reported. Last week, however, PCR  testing availability was changed. Only high-risk people who are symptomatic or at risk of severe illness from COVID-19 or people living in high-risk settings can get tested.