Ontario cutting capacity limits, gathering sizes as Omicron cases surge

Premier Doug Ford joined by Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kieran Moore announce additional public health measures. December 17, 2021. (Capture via Premier of Ontario on YouTube.)

The province has announced more public health guidelines on gathering sizes and capacity limits as the number COVID-19 cases in Ontario surges.

On Friday, Premier Doug Ford announced that effective Sunday, December 19 at 12:01 a.m., most indoor social gatherings will be limited to 10 people and outdoor gatherings to 25 people. Capacity limits for indoor settings such as restaurants, bars, personal care services, retailers, and shopping malls, will be lowered to 50 per cent. Tables at restaurants and bars will also be capped at 10 people per table.

Additionally, restaurants, bars and strip clubs will be required to close by 11 p.m. however, take out and delivery service can continue. Alcohol sales will be restricted after 10 p.m., and food and drink services will also be prohibited at sporting events, concerts, theatres and cinemas, casinos, and other gaming establishments. Weddings, funerals, and religious services are excluded from the changes.

“The decision to limit people’s ability to gather especially during the holidays is an extremely, extremely difficult one to make, and I know these measures will have an impact on businesses during the important season,” Ford said Friday afternoon. He added that the province is also calling on the federal government to expand supports for businesses and workers.

Ontario reported a staggering 3,124 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, double the number reported from last Friday.

“Throughout this entire pandemic, we’ve never faced an enemy like Omicron given how quickly it spreads,” said Ford. “We need to do everything we can to slow its spread as we continue to dramatically ramp up capacity to get as many booster shots into arms as possible. Doing so is the best way to safeguard our hospital and intensive care units.”

As far as schooling goes, Ford said it is not yet certain whether or not children will switch back over to virtual learning when they come back from the winter break in January.

“No decision has been made on what that looks like yet,” Ford said. “We are simply not in the position to say, the situation is evolving too quickly to be able to know where we’ll be in early January.”

On Thursday,¬†Ontario’s Science Advisory Table¬†recommended the use of “circuit breakers”, where individuals cut in-person contacts by 50 per cent and strong booster shot campaigns ramp up to 250,000 per day in an effort to curb the spread of Omicron.

“It’s clear Omicron will not take a holiday,” said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kieran Moore. “These measures will give us time to continue to vaccinate more Ontarians with booster doses that provide an additional layer of protection against Omicron.”

Earlier this week the province announced it would push up eligibility dates for adults 18-years and older to receive COVID-19 booster shots from January 4, 2022 to December 20. The province also slashed capacity at venues capable of hosting 1,000 people or more by 50 per cent.