Phased Easing of Public Health Measures in Ontario, Canada to Begin January 2022

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With key public health indicators beginning to show signs of improvement and expected to continue, Ontario announced that commencing January 31, 2022, in the absence of concerning trends, it would begin to take steps to cautiously and gradually ease public health measures in phases with 21 days between each step.    

January 31, 2022

Effective January 31, 2022, Ontario will begin the process of gradually easing restrictions, including but not limited to:

  • Increasing social gathering limits to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.
  • Increasing or maintaining capacity limits at 50% in indoor public settings, including but not limited to:
    • Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments without dance facilities;
    • Retailers (including grocery stores and pharmacies);
    • Shopping malls;
    • Non-spectator areas of sports and recreational fitness facilities, including gyms;
    • Cinemas;
    • Meeting and event spaces;
    • Recreational amenities and amusement parks, including water parks;
    • Museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos and similar attractions;
    • Casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments; and
    • Religious services, rites, or ceremonies.
  • Allowing spectator areas of facilities such as sporting events, concert venues and theatres to operate at 50% seated capacity or 500 people, whichever is less.

Enhanced proof of vaccination and other requirements will continue to apply in existing settings.

February 21, 2022

Effective February 21, 2022, Ontario will further lift public health measures, including:

  • Increasing social gathering limits to 25 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.
  • Removing capacity limits in indoor public settings where proof of vaccination is required, including but not limited to restaurants, indoor sports and recreational facilities, cinemas, as well as other settings that choose to opt in to proof of vaccination requirements.
  • Permitting spectator capacity at sporting events, concert venues, and theatres at 50% capacity.
  • Limiting capacity in most remaining indoor public settings where proof of vaccination is not required to the number of people that can maintain two metres of physical distance.
  • Indoor religious services, rites or ceremonies will be limited to the number that can maintain two metres of physical distance, with no limit if proof of vaccination is required.
  • Increasing indoor capacity limits to 25% in the remaining higher-risk settings where proof of vaccination is required, including nightclubs, wedding receptions in meeting or event spaces where there is dancing, and bathhouses and sex clubs.

Enhanced proof of vaccination, and other requirements will continue to apply in existing settings.

March 14, 2022

Effective March 14, 2022, Ontario will take additional steps to ease public health measures, including:

  • Lifting capacity limits in all indoor public settings. Proof of vaccination will be maintained in existing settings in addition to other regular measures.
  • Lifting remaining capacity limits on religious services, rites, or ceremonies.
  • Increase social gathering limits to 50 people indoors with no limits for outdoor gatherings.

Public health units may implement local and regional responses based on local contexts and conditions. 

Ontario Business Costs Rebate Program

Ontario also announced the launch of the Ontario Business Costs Rebate Program to support businesses required to close or reduce capacity due to public health measures put in place to blunt the spread of the Omicron variant.  Through this new program, Ontario will provide eligible businesses a rebate payment of up to 100% for property tax and energy costs they incur while subject to these restrictions.  Applications opened on January 18, 2022. 

COVID-19 Small Business Relief Grant 

Ontario is also introducing a new COVID-19 Small Business Relief Grant that, in February, will give a $10,000 grant to eligible businesses subject to closure under the modified Step Two of the Roadmap to Reopen.

Cash Flow Improvement for Ontario Businesses

Finally, Ontario is improving cash flows for businesses by making up to $7.5 billion available through a six-month interest and penalty-free period to make payments for most provincially administered taxes. The interest and penalty-free period began on January 1, 2022.

Bottom Line for Employers

Employers are encouraged to become familiar with how the easing of public health measures may apply to them, and the dates on which the easing of such measures will occur. 

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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