Government of Ontario Announces Further Capacity Restrictions

It’s starting to feel a lot like… earlier this year. Less than 48 hours after announcing the expansion of booster COVID-19 vaccine shots, and a 50 per cent cap on capacity limits at venues for more than a thousand people, Premier Doug Ford announced some additional caps to capacity on Friday afternoon. In other words, one day after saying he didn’t need to put more protocols on restaurants, the Premier has but more protocols on restaurants.

“Throughout this entire pandemic, we’ve never faced an enemy like Omicron given how quickly it spreads,” said Ford in a statement. “We need to do everything we can to slow its spread as we continue to dramatically ramp up capacity to get as many booster shots into arms as possible. Doing so is the best way to safeguard our hospital and intensive care units.”

Starting on Sunday December 19 at midnight, the Province is reducing capacity to 50 per cent at most public settings in the province including restaurants and bars, personal care services, retailers, malls, indoor rec centres, gyms, club houses, and personal care services. The new limits do not apply to wedding and funeral venues, plus facilities used for religious services.

Also starting Sunday, bars and restaurants will limit 10 people to a table at a time, licensed establishments will be required to close at 11 pm, the sale of alcohol will be restricted after 10 pm, and no food or drink will be provided at sporting events, concerts, casinos, theatres, or cinemas. The Province is also limiting the number of people at informal social gatherings to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.

“This was not an easy decision to make before the holidays, but the evidence is clear that further public health measures are required to slow the spread of Omicron and prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed,” added Minister of Health Christine Elliott.

Yesterday, Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of the science advisory group, called on the Government of Ontario to initiate a “circuit breaker” to reduce the number of social contacts people are making so that the Province could buy more time to get more booster shots into more people.

“It’s not a lockdown, it’s not a stay-at-home order. […] It’s not new things that we haven’t seen before, it’s those core public health measures,” Brown said at a press conference. “Every day that you wait, you have a greater spread and a bigger challenge ahead of you.”

Ontario’s opposition leaders were not satisfied by today’s announcement with Green Party of Ontario leader and Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner saying that Ford had again wasted time dithering and delaying action, and then delivered half-measures when up against the wall.

“I support efforts for a circuit breaker now, but we need to address some critical underlying issues and provide support for people and businesses through these tough times,” Schreiner said. “For example, missing from Ford’s announcement today was a safe reopening plan for schools in January. Parents and educators want a plan and they deserve to know details in advance. And we must support small businesses by adding another round of funding to the Small Business Support grant. Too many small businesses are facing hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt.”

In a news release Friday evening, the City of Guelph said that they would be observing the new capacity limits when they go into effect on Sunday, which means that City recreation centres, Guelph Museums, River Run Centre and Guelph Public Libraries will all be affected.

Reduced capacity limits were already meant to go into effect on Saturday at the Sleeman Centre following Wednesday’s announced 50 per cent capacity limit for venues that can host a thousand people or more. The question now is will the Guelph Storm have anyone left to play at this rate?

Friday night’s game against the Erie Otters was cancelled on Wednesday after 13 players on the Otters tested positive for COVID. In recent days the Kingston Frontenacs, Owen Sound Attack, Flint Firebirds, and Niagara Ice Dogs have all have to cancel games due to COVID outbreaks.

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