Capacity limits for Ontario restaurants, gyms could be lifted on Monday: sources
Published Thursday, October 21, 2021 1:05PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, October 21, 2021 7:01PM EDT
Ontario restaurants and gyms could be allowed to fully open as early as next week.
CTV News has learned that the Ford government could lift capacity restrictions for restaurants, bars and gyms on Monday. The province is expected to make the announcement Friday when it releases its long-promised plan to exit most COVID-19 mitigation measures.
A spokesperson for Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott told CP24 that on Friday, they will be “releasing Ontario’s plan to safely reopen and manage COVID-19 for the long term.”
CTV News has also learned that Premier Doug Ford met with his cabinet on Thursday to discuss when to drop mask mandates in public settings.
Multiple sources said the mandate could be removed by spring, while others indicate that the provincial government plans to slowly relax public health measures starting in January.
Sources also said the government is considering a proof-of-vaccination opt-in option for settings where capacity limits are still in place. Places like museums could be allowed to maximize capacity if they require guests to be fully vaccinated.
Ontario’s COVID-19 caseload has been falling for more than a month, prompting increasingly confident calls from Premier Doug Ford, his ministers and several leading public health officials that many existing public health restrictions could be removed soon.
In addition to the removal of capacity limits in restaurants and gyms, an exit from Step 3 could also include an end to the indoor private gathering occupancy limit of 25 and possibly an end to active screening of patrons and workers engaging in various activities.
Restaurant and gym owners say they are looking forward to opening fully.
"I'm very happy to hear that they're going to be done away because we can even break even at 50 per cent capacity," said Marina Imperio, the owner of 9Round Fitness. "We've been running at a loss ever since we've been allowed to open, and our debt has been accumulating."
Imperio hopes that with capacity limits being lifted, it will encourage more people to come back to her gym.
Many restaurant and gym owners have called on the Ford government to allow them to operate at 100 per cent capacity after permitting large venues to do so earlier this month.
"It's been a long time coming. Again, we, along with the gyms and other retails, we've always asked for a level playing field and I don't think that we've gotten that." said Vince Sposito, the co-owner of Casa Carbone.
"We weren't fairly treated, and we need the support or else we don't survive."
Anita Mancuso, the owner of Sotto Voce Wine & Pasta Bar, said lifting capacity restrictions is long overdue.
"I think for all of us, as soon as you were allowed to enter a premise and be double vaxxed, we should have been able to go full capacity," Mancuso said.
"We need the space in order to survive. We can't after being closed for so long turn people away."
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore previously said he wanted to have transmission data from the Thanksgiving long weekend, which ended ten days ago, before moving forward with any new relaxation of public health measures.
Ontario is now averaging only about 400 cases per day, with hospital occupancy so low that several provincial hospitals are accepting critically ill COVID-19 patients from Saskatchewan.
On Oct. 8, the province lifted all capacity limits for indoor professional sporting venues, concert and banquet halls and other venues covered by proof of vaccination policies, but not gyms or restaurants.
Use of enhanced proof of vaccination certificates in the province also takes effect on Friday.
Officials previously suggested to CTV News Toronto they may make proof of vaccination policies voluntary if current case transmission trends continue.
As of Oct. 18, Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table estimated the province’s effective reproduction number as 0.92, meaning 100 new infections would go on to cause 92 secondary infections, meaning transmission is in a state of decline.
Eighty-seven per cent of Ontario residents aged 12 and up now have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 73 per cent of the province’s overall population is fully vaccinated.
- with files from CTV News' Colin D'Mello