Just over two weeks from the second anniversary of the first COVID-19 lockdown, the Government of Ontario will take its next, great leap back to normalcy with the lifting of COVID-19 proof of vaccination mandates. While some places will have to decide for themselves whether they’re ready to roll without mandates, our different levels of government are now looking to the light at the end of tunnel.
As of 12:01 am tomorrow, Ontario will ease other public health measures including the lifting of capacity limits in all remaining indoor public settings, as well as proof of vaccination requirements. Businesses and other settings will be allowed to keep proof of vaccination in place if that’s what they choose, like the University of Guelph, which will be keeping current COVID precautions in place until the end of the winter semester in April.
Meanwhile, the City of Guelph will remove capacity limits and proof of vaccination requirements at the Sleeman Centre, the River Run Centre, and the City’s recreation facilities, although outside groups that rent City-owned spaces may still have their own COVID restrictions outside of City requirements. Also, residents are still encouraged to pre-register for public swims and skating, but walk-ins will be allowed if there’s space.
Masking requirements will remain in effect for the time being. Medical Officer of Health Dr. Nicola Mercer tells the Guelph Politicast this week that finding the right time to remove the masking order will be a matter of the “art of medicine”, but at this point it’s only a matter of time, she says.
“By the end of March, I would think that there will be a lot of encouragement, shall we say, to remove the mask order, at least politically,” Mercer said. “I am anticipating that the Province will remove their mask order sometime in the next four weeks to eight weeks. At that point in time, I believe I will remove my order as well.”
Of course, March 1 will also mark the official end of the state of emergency in Guelph, Wellington County and Dufferin County. A decision that has the full support of Dr. Mercer.
“We can’t live in a state of emergency forever, it does have to end, so you have to think about what would what makes sense now? What is it that we’re having a state of emergency for?” Mercer said. “It was very easy to say, ‘No, this is not the time,’ but I’m not seeing anything my crystal ball right now, so we don’t have a governance reason to keep our communities under emergency.”
In terms of Federal restrictions, the Government of Canada is adjusting its Travel Health Notice from a Level 3 to a Level 2 as of today. That means that the Canadians are no longer being told to avoid travel for non-essential purposes. Vaccinated travellers will also have the option of using a rapid antigen test to meet pre-entry requirements by land, sea or air, and they will no longer be required to quarantine until their tests come back. Unvaccinated travellers will continue to be required to test on arrival, on Day 8 and quarantine for 14 days.
“The return to mandatory random testing of all vaccinated travellers will facilitate travel for Canadians all while helping our public health authorities to detect future changes in COVID-19 importation rates and variants of concern,” said Federal Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos in a statement. “As we have said all along, Canada’s border measures will remain flexible and adaptable, for potential future scenarios.”