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Restaurants Canada says it’s “extremely disappointed” that the Ontario government has chosen to lift capacity limits in some venues, but not for the “hardest-hit” food service industry.
As of Saturday morning, cinemas, theatres, concert and spectator sports venues and car and horse racing tracks were allowed to open at full capacity.
The province says there have been few outbreaks in the selected settings, and most other public health measures such as masks remain in place.
Capacity rules remain in place in other places requiring proof of vaccination, such as gyms and restaurants.
“Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments do not have hard capacity limits, but rather are limited to the number of people that can maintain physical distancing,” Alex Hilkene, a spokesperson for Ontario’s health minister, told CBC News in an email.
“That is because they are higher-risk settings — prolonged close contact in enclosed spaces where face coverings are removed for the entire duration when seated.”
In a statement issued Friday, the national, non-profit association representing Canada’s restaurant and food service industry says it doesn’t understand why it continues to be “singled out” by the Ontario government.
“It is beyond comprehension that 20,000 people can cram into an arena, scream, and closely congregate without masks, while restaurants must adhere to strict distancing regulations which severely restrict the number of customers that can be served,” Restaurants Canada wrote.
The association says the restaurant industry was the first to be closed during the onset of COVID-19, has suffered the longest closures and faced the “deepest restrictions” throughout the pandemic.
It is calling on the province to immediately lift all further restrictions on the industry and provide additional support to recognize the cost of implementing the vaccine passport program.
The Ontario government says it’s making the capacity limit changes based on high vaccination rates, stable public health indicators and the vaccine certificate policy.
Physical distancing requirements are lifting along with capacity limits, with some exceptions such as indoor meeting and event spaces, which must still maintain two metres between people.
What’s happening across Canada
WATCH | COVID-19 cases decline nationally for the first time in months:
COVID-19 cases decline nationally for the first time in months
The Public Health Agency of Canada revealed new modelling that shows that for the country as a whole, the fourth wave is receding. But those gains could be fragile. 2:01
- Health officials shut B.C. restaurant for refusing to check vaccine passports.
- Pandemic delaying life-saving transgender surgeries, Alta. doctor warns.
- Sask. reports 502 new cases — about a fourth of them in people age 11 or younger.
- Man. doctors encounter threatening, unsettling behaviour as vaccine deadlines loom.
- Que. health minister wants unvaccinated health workers stripped of their licences.
- Some P.E.I. restaurant staff facing upset customers over proof of vaccination.
- Majority of N.S. Crown corporations following province’s vaccine mandate.
- Yellowknife case count continues to grow, Behchokǫ̀ count on the decline.
What’s happening around the world
As of Saturday, more than 237.3 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus-tracking tool. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.8 million.
In Europe, thousands of demonstrators marched down Rome’s Via Veneto and other main streets on Saturday, many clashing with police, to protest an Italian government rule requiring vaccines or recent negative tests to access workplaces starting next week.
In the Americas, Brazil has topped 600,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths, the second-highest global toll behind the United States.
In Asia, Singapore plans to widen its quarantine-free travel program to include fully vaccinated individuals from South Korea and the United States as the financial hub moves cautiously to reopen its borders.
In Africa, Moderna plans to invest up to $500 million US to build a factory in Africa to make up to 500 million doses of mRNA vaccines each year, including its COVID-19 shot, as pressure grows on the pharmaceutical industry to manufacture drugs on the continent.