Ontario Announces Long-Term Plan for Easing COVID-19 Measures
Date: October 25, 2021
On October 22, 2021, the Ontario government announced its long-term plan for easing COVID-19-related public health and workplace safety measures, with the aim of lifting all restrictions by March 2022. The plan identifies a number of milestones, beginning October 25, 2021.
In this FTR Now, we highlight the key details of the government’s long-term plan.
Lifting Capacity Limits and Distancing Requirements
Effective October 25, 2021 at 12:01 a.m., the government lifted capacity limits and physical distancing requirements for most settings where proof of vaccination is currently required. The government also extended an option to organizations in certain settings where proof of vaccination is currently not required to elect to require patrons to provide proof of identification and of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in which case capacity limits and distancing requirements would also not apply.
O. Reg. 727/21—amending O. Reg. 364/20, the Rules for Areas at Step 3 and at the Roadmap Exit Step—gives effect to these changes.
The following settings that currently require proof of vaccination may now operate without capacity limits and physical distancing measures:
- restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments where dance facilities are not provided,
- facilities used for sports and recreational fitness activities, including areas for spectators within those facilities, areas where personal physical fitness trainers provide instruction within those facilities, and waterparks,
- casino, bingo halls and other gaming establishments, and
- meeting and event spaces, including conference centres and convention centres.
Specified businesses and facilities that are not currently subject to the proof of vaccination requirements may also now operate without capacity limits and physical distancing measures, provided that the person responsible for the place of business or facility elects to require patrons to provide proof of identification and of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19. These businesses and facilities are as follows:
- real estate agencies, in respect of open houses hosted by the real estate agency,
- businesses that provide personal care services relating to the hair or body, including hair salons and barbershops, manicure and pedicure salons, aesthetician services, piercing services, tanning salons, spas and tattoo studios,
- outdoor recreational amenities, in respect of indoor clubhouses,
- photography studios and services, in respect of indoor areas,
- museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos, science centres, landmarks, historic sites, botanical gardens and similar attractions, in respect of indoor areas,
- amusement parks, in respect of indoor areas,
- fairs, rural exhibitions, festivals and similar events, in respect of indoor areas,
- businesses that provide tour and guide services, including guided hunting trips, tasting and tours of wineries, breweries and distilleries, fishing charters, trail riding tours, walking tours and bicycle tours, in respect of indoor areas,
- businesses that provide boat tours, provided the business is otherwise permitted to operate as per the regulation, and
- marinas, boating clubs and other organizations that maintain docking facilities for members or patrons, in respect of indoor areas.
Should the person responsible for one of these businesses or facilities elect to require proof of vaccination, the election will remain in effect for the duration of the day on which it is made. During the period when an election is in effect, the person responsible for the place of business or facility must ensure that signs are posted at all entrances, in a conspicuous location visible to the public, informing patrons that proof of vaccination is required in order to enter the premises. The election can be made each day that the business or facility is open to the public.
Persons responsible for locations where weddings, funerals, or religious services, rites or ceremonies take place may also lift capacity limits and physical distancing measures, provided they implement proof of vaccination requirements and post signs of such at all entrances to the premises, in a conspicuous location visible to the public. This does not apply to weddings, funerals or religious services, rites or ceremonies that take place at private dwellings. It also does not apply to social gatherings associated with a wedding, such as a wedding reception, but many such gatherings are held in locations where the capacity limits have now been lifted (e.g., restaurants without dance facilities) subject to any remaining restrictions applicable to such locations.
The government announced other steps it intends to take over the next six months to progressively ease COVID-19-related public health and workplace safety measures. While the plan is dependent on the absence of concerning trends in public health and health care, the government intends to do the following:
- November 15, 2021: lift capacity limits in higher-risk settings where proof of vaccination is required, including food or drink establishments with dance facilities (e.g., nightclubs, wedding receptions in meeting/event spaces where there is dancing)
- January 17, 2022: begin gradually lifting limits in settings where proof of vaccination is not required. The Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) will also lift CMOH directives, as appropriate. Proof of vaccination requirements may also begin to be gradually lifted (e.g., for restaurants and bars, sports and recreational facilities, and bingo halls)
- February 7, 2022: lift proof of vaccination requirements in high-risk settings (e.g., night clubs)
- March 28, 2022: lift remaining public health and workplace safety measures, including wearing face coverings in indoor public settings (subject to any recommendations released for specific settings). Proof of vaccination would be lifted for all remaining settings, including meeting and event spaces, sporting events, concerts, theatres and cinemas.
The government stated that its long-term plan will allow for regional public health units to implement measures (such as reintroducing capacity limits and/or physical distancing) depending on the local context and conditions. Public health measures and restrictions would be implemented province-wide only in exceptional circumstances.
We will continue to monitor developments related to the government’s long-term plan for easing COVID-19 measures. Should you have any questions or require further information, please contact your regular Hicks Morley lawyer.
Editor’s note: On November 10, 2021, the Ontario government announced that it would be pausing the lifting of capacity limits and physical distancing measures for higher-risk settings where proof of vaccination is required (e.g., food or drink establishments with dance facilities such as nightclubs). The government stated that it would monitor public health and health care indicators over the next 28 days to determine when it is safe to lift restrictions in these settings.
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