Ontario, Canada Announces Phased Plan to Lift Remaining Public Health and Workplace Safety Measures by March 2022

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On October 22, 2021, Ontario announced the release of its phased plan to gradually lift all remaining public health and workplace safety measures by March 2022, as set out in A Plan to Safely Reopen Ontario and Manage COVID-19 for the Long Term (Plan). 

To ensure the Plan is executed safely, the province will assess on an ongoing basis key public health care indicators (e.g., the existence of any new COVID-19 variants, increases in hospitalizations and ICU occupancy, rapid increases in transmission), and local and regional responses to COVID-19.  If there are no concerning trends, public health and workplace safety measures will be lifted in the gradual increments described below.

October 25, 2021

In accordance with Regulation 727/21 (Regulation) made under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020, which was published on October 22, 2021, effective October 25, 2021, the province’s Rules for Areas in Step 3 will be amended as follows:

Capacity limits will no longer apply in restaurants and other select businesses where proof of vaccination from patrons is required. 

We discussed the proof of full vaccination status and identification requirements for patrons at the entry point of applicable premises of certain businesses in detail here.  The Regulation provides that effective October 25, 2021, capacity limits are no longer applicable at the following businesses where such proof is required for patrons:

  • Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments;
  • Indoor areas of sports and recreational facilities such as gyms and where personal physical fitness trainers provide instruction;
  • Casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments; and
  • Indoor meeting and event spaces.

Certain businesses and facilities may elect to require patrons to provide proof of identification and proof of full vaccination and eliminate capacity limits/physical distancing requirements.

The Regulation provides that the following businesses and facilities may elect to require patrons to provide proof of full vaccination status and identification:

  • 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, tastings and tours for wineries, breweries and distilleries, fishing charters, trail riding tours, walking tours and bicycle tours, in respect of indoor areas.
  • Businesses that provide boat tours, if the business is otherwise permitted to operate under section 30 of Schedule 2.
  • Marinas, boating clubs and other organizations that maintain docking facilities for members or patrons, in respect of indoor areas.

The election may be made each day the business or facility is open to the public and the requirement will be in effect for the duration of the day on which the election is made.  During the period when the election is in effect, the business or facility will be permitted to eliminate capacity limits/physical distancing requirements. The business or facility must post signs at all entrances to its premises in a conspicuous location visible to the public informing patrons that proof of vaccination is required in order to enter.

Locations where a wedding, funeral or a religious service, rite or ceremony takes place may elect to require attendees to provide proof of identification and of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Regulation provides that a location where a wedding, funeral or a religious service, rite or ceremony (Ceremony) takes place may elect to require attendees to provide proof of full vaccination status and identification as if those requirements applied with respect to the location.1  Such an election may be made in respect of any or all Ceremonies taking place at the location.  For purposes of applying these requirements, a person attending a Ceremony is considered to be a patron of the location where it takes place.

During the period when such an election is in effect:

  • The location will not be required to limit the number of persons in the room to the number that can maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from every other person in the room; and
  • The location must post signs at all entrances to the premises, in a conspicuous location visible to the public, that inform persons that proof of vaccination is required to enter the location.

This will not apply to settings where people receive medical care, food from grocery stores and medical supplies.

November 15, 2021

Effective November 15, 2021, Ontario will lift capacity limits in the remaining higher-risk settings where proof of vaccination is required, such as food or drink establishments with dance facilities (e.g., night clubs, wedding receptions in meeting/event spaces where there is dancing), strip clubs, bathhouses and sex clubs.

January 17, 2022

Effective January 17, 2021, provided there are no concerning trends in public health and health care after the winter holiday and after students have returned to in-class learning, Ontario will begin to gradually lift capacity limits in settings where proof of vaccination is not required. The Chief Medical Officer of Health will also lift CMOH directives as appropriate.

At this time, proof of vaccination requirements may also begin to be gradually lifted, including for restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments, facilities used for sports and recreational facilities and casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments.

February 7, 2022

Effective February 7, 2022, Ontario will lift proof of vaccination requirements in high-risk settings, including night clubs, strip clubs, and bathhouses and sex clubs.

March 28, 2022

Effective March 28, 2022, public health and workplace safety measures that remain will be lifted, including the requirement to wear face coverings in indoor public settings. If appropriate, recommendations may be released for specific settings.

As well, the proof of vaccination requirement will be lifted for all remaining settings, including meeting and event spaces, sporting events, concerts, theatres and cinemas, racing venues and commercial and film productions with studio audiences.

Local and Regional Responses

To manage COVID-19 over the long term, public health units will apply public health measures based on their specific circumstances, including, among others, the reintroduction of capacity limits and/or physical distancing and gathering limits, and the addition of settings where proof of vaccination is required; however, if Ontario’s province’s health system capacity is at risk of becoming overwhelmed or if a vaccine-resistant COVID-19 variant is identified in the province, the provincial government will implement public health measures across the province. 

Footnotes

​1 This does not apply to a Ceremony that takes place at a private dwelling.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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