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Ontario pauses lifting of capacity limits

Ontario government delays plan to remove capacity restrictions at night clubs, other high-risk indoor settings where vaccine proof required.
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Ontario's chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore says it's necessary to delay planned lifting of capacity restrictions. (File)

The provincial government is hitting pause on its plan to lift capacity limits for settings like night clubs and wedding receptions, citing an uptick in some COVID-19 indicators.

Capacity limits for higher-risk indoor settings where proof of vaccination is required were set to lift on Nov. 15 under a reopening plan released by the government in late October.

Those settings include night clubs and other food and drink establishments with dance facilities, strip clubs, sex clubs, bathhouses, and wedding receptions held at meeting and event spaces where there is dancing.

Other settings where proof of vaccination is required, like restaurants, gyms, and movie theatres, will still be permitted to operate at full capacity. The government lifted those restrictions on Oct. 25.

In a statement Wednesday, the province said the pause came “out of an abundance of caution.”

“While Ontario’s hospital and intensive care capacity remains stable and the province continues to report one of the lowest rates of active cases in the country, certain public health trends, including the effective reproduction number and percent positivity have increased slightly over the past week," read a government statement.

The province is still tracking below the lower-range scenario for ICU capacity projected by the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table on Oct. 22, the government said.

Ontario reported 454 new cases Wednesday, as the seven-day average of daily cases reached 500 for the first time in several weeks.

The government and chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore will monitor those trends for the next 28 days “to ensure the province has the required time to better understand any potential impact on hospitalizations and ICU admissions,” before lifting capacity limits.

"It is necessary to make this deliberate pause as we approach the winter holidays where more people will begin gathering indoors and where students will be returning to in-class learning in January after celebrating with friends and family,” Moore said.

Health Minister Christine Elliott had indicated just the day before, on Tuesday, that the province would stick to its reopening plan.

Groups like the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario have expressed alarm at the timelines in the roadmap, released in late October.

Thunder Bay’s medical officer of health, Dr. Janet DeMille, has also said she’s uncomfortable with the plan to stop requiring proof of vaccination in indoor settings as early as January.

The government's roadmap for reopening envisions lifting proof-of-vaccine rules in restaurants as soon as Jan. 17, and in higher-risk settings like night clubs in February.

The plan is said to depend on indicators like hospitalizations and ICU admissions, transmission levels, and whether new variants arise.

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