The anticipated re-opening of the Ontario economy is Monday, and there have been some last-minute details released from both the Provincial government and the local public health unit. Locally, a public health order issued in December will be rescinded on Monday, and there have been some adjustments to the re-opening protocols from the Province while all levels are sending out a message that COVID is something we have to get used to.
Among the new regulations announced by Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kieran Moore on Thursday was a repeal of the moratorium on snack sales at sporting events, concerts, movie theatres, and gaming establishments. At the same time, most businesses will no longer have to collect contact tracing information.
“This is aligned with recent changes to the testing and case and contact management guidance and will allow businesses to focus their efforts on the enforcement of other public health measures in these settings, such as masking requirement,” said the official statement.
Last week, the Government of Ontario announced that restaurants and bars (without dance facilities), malls, retailers, meeting and event spaces, cinemas, performance venues, gyms and rec facilities, museums, casinos and tourist attractions will all be allowed to open with up to 50 per cent capacity at 12:01 am on Monday.
Sporting events, concert venues and theatres will also be allowed to open up to 50 per cent capacity or 500 seats (whichever is less) while capacity limits for social gatherings will be allowed for 10 people inside and 25 people outside.
In other news, the Ministry of Health has said that non-urgent surgeries will resume in stages starting next week. Meanwhile, the Province is also removing any legal requirements mandating people to work from home where possible although it’s still being recommended that anyone who can work from home should probably still do so for the time being.
“You have to take personal responsibility based on symptoms, knowing when to access health-care systems and (rapid antigen tests),” Moore said at the media availability.
The changes to the provincial work from home mandate were met with Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Medical Officer of Health Dr. Nicola Mercer rescinding her own public health order on working from home that she issued late last month.
“In conjunction with the Province’s loosening of COVID-19 restrictions, my Letter of Instruction requiring remote work will be rescinded on Monday, January 31,” Mercer said in a statement. “While remote work is no longer required, I still urge individuals, organizations and businesses to make working from home an option wherever possible.”
At a University of Guelph town hall on Thursday, Mercer laid out a lot of information for attendees about taking precautions when in-person classes resumes on campus on Monday, and she said that there was a good reason why she wanted U of G students, staff and faculty to be prepared.
“I just want to say very clearly that we are going to be living with COVID-19 for a very long time,” Mercer explained. “If you are waiting for COVID to be over before you can resume some of those loved activities or interactions, I’m telling you that we’re going to have to learn to have those interactions, or have those those events in our lives, in a different way because COVID-19 is going to be with us for many years, potentially forever.”
Mercer’s words were echoed by the province’s top doctor in his Thursday press event.
“In the face of Omicron, I absolutely think we have to start to understand we have to learn to live with this virus and we’ve let our lives be controlled for the last two years in a significant amount of fear and now we’re going to have to change some of that thinking,” Moore said. “We have to learn as a society to live with this virus, live with the risk.”