Province pauses plans to lift public health measures

File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / halfpoint

The Ontario government announced it will put the next step of the province’s reopening plans on hold as the number of new COVID-19 cases has risen over the past week.

Late last month, the province said it would begin to lift some public health measures at places that require proof of vaccination like restaurants, gyms, and casinos. The government intended to include other high-risk places in the plan on November 15, but on Wednesday, the plan was put on the back-burner.

“To protect our hard-fought progress and ensure we can continue to manage COVID-19 for the long-term, more time is needed before we can take the next step forward in our reopening plan,” said Minister of Health Christine Elliott.

The higher-risk settings include:

• Food or drink establishments with dance facilities such as night clubs and wedding receptions in spaces where there is dancing

• Strip clubs

• Sex clubs and bathhouses

Current restrictions limit capacity for nightclubs and bathhouses to 25 per cent. Strip clubs do not have a set capacity limit but clubs must maintain physical distancing of at least two metres.

No other changes have been made to the reopening plan. Provincial officials and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said they will monitor data for the next 28 days to determine whether it is safe to go forward with lifting capacity limits.

“While Ontario has continued to make progress as a result of its safe and cautious approach to reopening, it is necessary to make this deliberate pause as we approach the winter holidays where more people will begin gathering indoors and where students will be returning to in-class learning in January after celebrating with friends and family,” said Dr. Kieran Moore.

On Wednesday, the province reported 454 new COVID-19 cases. Over the past week, the daily average of new COVID-19 cases in Ontario was 503.