Ford to make announcement as sources say COVID-19 restrictions will ease for restaurants, gyms

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is scheduled to make an announcement Thursday morning on his government’s plan to begin lifting COVID-19 public health measures in the province. 

Part of the changes will include that restaurants and gyms can reopen at 50 per cent capacity on Jan. 31, government sources told Radio-Canada. Requirements for masking and COVID-19 vaccine passports will be in place, one source said.

Currently, food and drink establishments in Ontario are only allowed to offer takeout, drive-thru and delivery services. No indoor service is allowed.

Ford is slated to be joined at the news conference by Health Minister Christine Elliott and Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health.

You’ll be able to watch it live in this story at 11:30 a.m. ET.

Both Ford and Elliott have repeatedly suggested this week that the government would soon announce its intention to begin loosening restrictions put in place on January 5 as the Omicron variant led to an unprecedented surge in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Speaking to media at Queen’s Park yesterday, Ford said he would soon be making a “positive announcement” for restaurants, gyms and “other folks.”

Also yesterday, Elliott said Ontario is starting to see “glimmers of hope” in trends related to Omicron, with new cases expected to peak at some point in the coming weeks. It is anticipated that hospitalizations, which now stand at more than 4,000, will begin to taper off in the weeks after that. 

The rate of new admissions to hospital and ICUs has begun to slow, she said, while the average length of stays for those who are admitted are stabilizing. 

Alongside Elliott, Moore said that it appears the restrictions put in place this month are working to at least slow the spread of the virus.

In addition to restaurants ordered to close for indoor dining, museums, zoos and other such attractions were shut down, as were gyms, indoor recreation facilities, cinemas and indoor concert venues. Retail settings and personal care services were capped at 50 per cent capacity.

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