Public health restrictions to be eased as of Jan. 31

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced on Thursday, Jan. 20, that effective Jan. 31, public health restrictions put in place in an effort to cope with the highly-contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19 would start to be eased.

Among other measures, restaurants will be able to re-open to inside dining to a maximum of 50 percent of normal capacity.

Tighter restrictions, including a ban on indoor restaurant dining, were put in place on Jan. 5 in an effort to blunt the transmission of Omicron among Ontarians, he said. That was in response to disturbing trends brought on by the variant in early January, including hospitalizations doubling every seven days.

“The data was clear. We had to act.”

He asserted those restrictions had been the right decision, with hospitalizations now levelling off and patients who were admitted staying less time in hospital than they had with previous variants.

He expected Omicron to peak this month, but “We’re not out of the woods yet.” The easing of restrictions would be broken into three phases, with at least 21 days between each step.

Starting Jan. 31, most businesses serving the public that had been closed or limited to 25 percent of normal capacity would be able to re-open at 50 percent capacity, Premier Ford stated. Indoor social gathering maximums would be raised to 10 from five, and outdoors to 25 from 10.

He urged everyone who hadn’t yet been vaccinated to so so as soon as possible, and “Boost as soon you can.” Ontario was leading the country in the number of third, booster doses administered to its residents.