COVID-19: Ontario to ease COVID-19 restrictions, end vaccine passports, open boosters to youths

COVID-19: Ontario to ease COVID-19 restrictions, end vaccine passports, open boosters to youths

Publishing date:

Feb 14, 2022  •  February 14, 2022  •  4 minute read  •  9 Comments

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, pictured in this file photo, on Monday announced capacity limits would be removed for most businesses that require proof of vaccination on Feb. 17.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, pictured in this file photo, on Monday announced capacity limits would be removed for most businesses that require proof of vaccination on Feb. 17. Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Ontario will start removing COVID-19 public health restrictions a few days earlier than planned and end the requirement for vaccine passports on March 1, Premier Doug Ford said on Monday.

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Starting on Feb. 17, capacity limits will be lifted at restaurants, gyms and theatres, and social gathering limits will be increased to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors, he said.

Ford emphasized that the changes were not being made in response to the protests in Ottawa and Windsor over pandemic public health restrictions, but because it’s safe to do so.

He said the changes are being made based on recommendations on the weekend from Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore.

Pandemic restrictions were always meant to be time-limited, Ford said.

Ford criticized the demonstrations in Ottawa and Windsor, where protesters had blocked the bridge to the U.S., saying the “chaos” won’t be tolerated and warning of severe consequences if it continues.

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The changes:

Feb. 17:

  • Social gathering limits will be increased to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors
  • Organized public events will be limited to 50 people indoors and no limit outdoors
  • Capacity limits will be removed in most places where proof of vaccination is required, such as restaurants, gyms, cinemas, meeting and event spaces and casinos, which are now limited to 50 per cent capacity
  • Capacity limits at sports arenas and concert venues will be 50 per cent
  • In high-risk setting like nightclubs and restaurants with dancing, bathhouses and sex clubs, capacity limits will be 25 per cent

March 1:

  • If public health and health system indicators continue to improve, capacity limits will be lifted in all indoor public settings
  • Proof of vaccination requirements will be lifted for all settings. Individual businesses and other settings may chose to continue to require vaccination
  • Rules around masking will remain in place

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“To manage COVID-19 over the long-term, public health units can deploy local and regional responses based on local context and conditions,” the provincial government noted in a release.

Ford said that restrictions can be removed more quickly than earlier announced because “key indicators have steadily improved.”

For instance, 1,369 people are now in hospital with COVID-19, Moore said, compared to around 4,000 people at the peak of the Omicron wave (although not all hospitals report on weekends).

The number of COVID-19 tests that are positive has dropped from a peak of 40 per cent in early January to around 12 per cent, said Ford.

Moore said the level of vaccination is now high enough to provide the level of protection needed to remove public health restrictions. According to the province, as of Monday 90.1 per cent of people age 12 and up had two doses of vaccine, and 85 per cent of people aged five and up had two doses. Ontario said that 56.4 per cent of those 18 and over had a booster dose.

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On Jan. 20, the government had set out a plan to “cautiously and gradually” ease public-health restrictions, with 21 days between each step in order to monitor the impact of reopening on key indictors such as the number of people in hospital and ICU .

Under that plan, on Jan. 31 social gathering limits were increased and restaurants, cinemas, gyms and other facilities were reopened with 50 per cent capacity limits.

The next stage was supposed to arrive Feb. 21, so Monday’s announcement effectively bumps that up by four days.

The earlier plan called for lifting capacity limits in indoor public settings by March 14, but did not anticipate removing vaccine passport requirements for indoor settings.

Dr. Peter Juni, scientific director of the Ontario COVID-19 science advisory table, told several media outlets last week that vaccine passports would need to require three shots to be effective. Vaccine passports now are based on two doses, and both Ford and Moore have said they had no plans to change that to three shots.

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On Monday the government also announced that youths aged 12 to 17 will be eligible for booster shots beginning Feb. 18.

COVID-19 in Ontario

Ontario reported 394 people were in the ICU with COVID-19 on Monday (1,369 were in provincial hospitals due to the virus). Not all hospitals report on the weekend.

The number of people in hospital, which hit a pandemic-high of 4,183 on Jan. 18, has been on the decline in February.

There were eight new deaths reported in the province, bringing the death toll since the pandemic began to 12,101.

The province reported 1,765 new cases, although that is an underestimate of the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community because PCR testing has been restricted to those at highest risk.

There were 139 new cases reported by the province in Ottawa; 34 in the Eastern Ontario health unit; 23 in Leeds, Lanark and Grenville; 27 in Renfrew County; and 15 in Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington.

COVID-19 in Ottawa

Ottawa Public Health reported no new deaths or outbreaks on Monday.

There are 45 ongoing outbreaks in health-care institutions, long-term care and retirement homes and other congregate settings.

OPH reported 29 people in hospital with an active case of COVID-19 and four people in ICU.

There were 138 new cases, which is an under-estimate because of the restrictions on testing.

More On This Topic

  1. Ontario Premier Doug Ford attends a news conference at the Queens Park Legislature, in Toronto, on Friday, February 11, 2022.

    Ontario to end COVID-19 vaccine certificates on March 1, lift capacity limits on Monday

  2. Joël Lightbound celebrates his re-election on Sept. 21, 2021, in in Louis-Hébert riding.

    Liberal MP breaks ranks and criticizes public health policies dividing Canadians

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