By: Laura Steiner
Ontario will return to Step Two of its reopening plan effective 12:01 a.m. Wednesday January 5 2022. The move was made in response to the province’s battle with the #COVID19 OMICRON variant.
“As we continue with our provincial vaccine booster efforts, we must look at every option to slow the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said.
Step two will include the following measures include the following:
Businesses/ Services Limited capacity:
- Social gathering limits: 5 people indoors, 10 people outdoors
- Organized public events will also be limited to five people indoors
- Capacity at: weddings/ funerals, religious services will be limited to 50% of a room inside, while outdoor services will be limited to however many can fit while maintaining a two metre physical distance
- Shopping Malls, and other retail settings will be limited to 50% capacity. Physical distancing will be required in lineups.
- Personal Care Services will be limited to a 50% capacity
- Libraries will be limited to 50% capacity
- The provincial government is requiring businesses and organizations to ask their workers to work remotely unless required to be physically on-site.
- Indoor dining at all restaurants and bars, and restricting the sale of alcohol after 10 p.m. Take-out, and delivery will be permitted, as will outdoor dining
- Tourist attractions including: landmarks, historic sites, botanical gardens, museums, waterparks, tour and guide services. Outdoor venues can open with limited capacity.
- Indoor horse racing tracks, car racing tracks, and other similar venues. Spectator capacity limits will apply outdoor venues
- Closure of all indoor sport/ recreational fitness facilities including gyms with the exception of those training for the Olympics and Paralympics, as well as athletes involved in select professional and elite amateur sports.
- All indoor meeting, and event spaces. Outdoor meeting and event spaces will remain open with restrictions
All publicly funded boards of education will now begin remote learning as of January 5, 2022. They’re hoping to return to in-person classes January 17, 2022. All buildings will be open for emergency childcare, as well as special education needs’ students to attend classes in person. Halton area school boards are reviewing today’s announcements.
Province cancels non-elective surgeries
The Omicron variant is spreading faster, and leads to a lesser severe form of the illness. But it also leads to higher hospitalizations. Halton hospitals are currently dealing with a total of 48 cases across their three sites. This breaks down to Georgetown hospital with 3, Milton Hospital with 9 and Oakville Hospital with 36. Friday’s numbers on the Region of Halton’s website indicate that 78% of ICU beds are occupied with 5 COVID-19 patients.
In response the province has decided to cancel all non-elective surgeries and procedures. “While this was not an easy decision, these measures will help preserve bed capacity and prevent our hospitals from becoming overwhelmed,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said.
Businesses React to announcement of more closures
The province expects absenteeism to rise across all sectors of the economy due to the COVID-19 spread. They’ve introduced a $.7.5 billion rebate program to those who are required to reduce their capacity, or close. Those with 50% will be eligible to have to half their energy and property taxes covered for up to six months interest, and penalty, while those required to entirely close for indoor activities will be able to have 100% covered for 6 months penalty and interest free.
It’s not enough for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). CEO Dan Kelly argues this only begins to help. “Recovery has never truly begun for most Ontario businesses: Only 35% of Ontario’s small firms are at normal revenues. The average COVID-19 debt for an Ontario small business is an alarming $190,000 and 18.5% are consider bankruptcy,” he said in statement released on the group’s website.
The group is asking for an immediate reintroduction of grant support for all businesses announcement.
“It is difficult but necessary to apply additional public health and workplace safety measures to help stop the spread of the virus and protect our health system capacity. Please follow all public measures and get vaccinated with your first, second or booster dose if you have not done already. Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) Dr. Kieran Moore said.