DAN CEARNS, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, for The Standard
DURHAM/KAWARTHA LAKES: Ontario provincial government officials have provided a timeline and plan for the province to gradually lift all remaining COVID-19 related public health measures.
The announcement was made by Premier Doug Ford, Health Minister Christine Elliott and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore at a press conference, on Friday, October 22nd.
“We’re sticking with what’s worked for our province. This is a cautious plan. It slowly lifts public health measures over time, allowing us to monitor any impacts to our hospitals and in our communities. It provides Ontarians and businesses with a certainty they need to make plans of their own. It will do everything possible to avoid broad lockdowns while enabling a tailored and localized response, should we need to act,” Premier Ford said.
The first part of this plan occurred on Monday, October 25th, with capacity limits lifted at restaurants, bars, gyms and indoor meeting spaces. “At the same time, other settings will be permitted to lift capacity limits, if they choose to opt in to require proof of vaccination [for staying in the facility]. This includes settings like personal care services, such as barbershops and salons, and the indoor areas of amusement parks, museums and galleries. However, proof of vaccination will not be required in settings where people receive medical care, food from grocery stores or basic medical supplies. At no time will people be denied these services based on their vaccination status,” Minister Elliott explained.
If these services choose not to opt-in, they can still operate their businesses but will still have the capacity limits, set by the province, remain in place.
Following that, the province plans to “continue to cautiously and gradually lift other public health measures in November 2021, and January, February and March 2022,” according to Minister Elliott.
“Notably, if the situation is not deteriorating and in the absence of concerning trends, on January 17th, 2022, there would begin a gradual lifting of vaccine certification requirements, Chief Medical Officer of Health [office] directives and capacity limits in settings where proof of vaccination is not required,” Minister Elliott added.
Dr. Moore explained how a business would opt into the proof of vaccination system.
“Opting in will be at a local level. They have to put signage in place, if they are opting into the immunization certification process. If they want to do it for an event or for a 24-hour period, then there would be signage, public disclosure, and that would be enforced by the local bylaws or public health agency as needed,” he said.
The face mask requirement is expected to be in place until late March 2022, and the province is hoping to have all public health measures lifted by the end of March.