Premier Doug Ford will lift COVID-19 capacity limits in restaurants, bars and gyms when Ontario reveals additional benchmarks for reopening the economy.
Ford, who is expected to meet with reporters on Friday, hopes to deliver encouraging news for restaurants and others – such as public and fitness center owners – who are concerned about restrictions on their businesses.
The premier’s news conference will take place before his Progressive Conservative government unveils detailed steps to reopen next week.
It’s been almost three months since Ontario entered the current “phase three” of reopening.
“We’re calling it ‘Pandemic Plan 2.0’ – but it’s not just about reopening,” a senior government official told the Star on Wednesday.
The plan will include key health markers such as intensive care unit capacity in hospitals, the number of daily COVID-19 cases and vaccination rates, to enable the government to reinstate epidemiological restrictions if needed.
“Our approach is to continue to be cautious, cautious, cautious. What we want is not to overload the health care system. Current indicators are that we will not have to go back, but we have to be careful,” said the top Conservative, who spoke confidentially to discuss internal deliberations.
“We’re going to give clarity to everyone at the same time,” the source said, adding that the government was lifting capacity limits at major stadiums, concerts and cinemas, keeping the heat from areas excluded by last Friday’s surprise announcement. gives.
Restaurants, bars and gyms – where proof of vaccination is also required – were excluded.
“What’s not good is a bar,” the insider said, admitting that it was “a bad idea” to only address large venues.
Indeed, Ford is under increasing pressure from opposition leaders and business groups to increase the limit on customers at bars, restaurants and gyms that are struggling financially in the pandemic.
“It’s a real head-scratcher,” said Liberal leader Steven Del Duca.
“I don’t think there’s any point in allowing full capacity back … in the Scotiabank Arena, but not letting an individual restaurant owner do what they need to do to survive.”
Ontario reported 306 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, dropping the seven-day average of new infections to 500 – the lowest in six weeks, despite schools reopening for in-class learning last month.
The vaccination rate now sits at 83 percent of Ontarians over the age of 12 who had two shots, and 87 percent with one, with a target of at least 90 percent within reach.
“We know we are close to the maximum vaccination rate (for 12 and above) because 10 per cent of people are those who will never get their shots,” the senior official said.
“But we are also looking at when the vaccine is available for children ages five to 11 and for more boosters.”
The Tories quietly announced changes to stadiums and theaters in a news release Friday afternoon, just before the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
But matters heat up like leftover turkey dinner in the microwave this week.
“It’s almost as if they were trying to push this policy,” said Meg Marshall of the Queen West Business Improvement Area. She added that more fans should be able to cheer on the Leafs at “our local restaurant.”
Critics questioned how safe it is for patrons to eat and drink in an arena, side by side, compared to allowing a full slate of tables in a restaurant or bar where patrons must wear masks upon leaving their seats.
Most dining establishments and gyms have 50 percent customer capacity.
“Once again, Doug Ford is putting mom-and-pop, neighborhood family-owned businesses at a disadvantage,” New Democrat Leader Andrea Horvath said in calling for a “level playing field.”
She compared the situation to previous pandemic lockdowns, during which the government allowed big-box stores such as Walmart and Costco to remain fully open, while smaller, non-essential retailers were limited to online or telephone orders and curbside pickup. .
After Tourism, Culture and Culture Minister Lisa McLeod did not attend an online meeting in her office called with industry leaders on Tuesday, several staff members were left seeking feedback.
“It was very wasteful,” Restaurant Canada vice president James Rilett said Wednesday, welcoming the added pressure by opposition parties. “The ministry had no answer for us on why this was done and what they are going to do in the future.”
McLeod’s office said she was in Ottawa, where she represents the suburban riding of Nepean, at a meeting about expanding the hospital.
Ontario Chamber of Commerce President Rocco Rossi said the “inconsistency” between capacity limit policies needed to be clarified.
“The tough, hard-working restaurant sector is much better off,” he said.
Del Duca agreed that it appears that restaurants, for example, are not getting a “proper shake” from the province.
He said, “It’s okay for governments to make tough decisions, but I think you have to support those decisions … provide more evidence, provide more data, and make sure people have a say in your decisions.” Have faith.”
The Health Ministry has said that capacity limits for stadiums, concerts and theaters were lifted due to “limited transmission” of COVID-19 in those settings, on the recommendation of Chief Medical Officer Dr Kieran Moore.
Moore will face questions about the decision at his weekly news conference Thursday afternoon.