TORONTO — Ontario will keep capacity limits in place for at least a month longer than planned in some settings where proof of vaccination is required, following a rise in COVID-19 cases.
Night clubs, strip clubs, sex clubs and bathhouses were expected to remove caps on the number of patrons next week, but the province announced Wednesday that the restrictions will stay in place for at least another 28 days while it monitors health indicators.
“Because Ontario is seeing an increase in some of its key indicators … and out of an abundance of caution, we are pausing the next step of the plan to reopen Ontario and manage COVID-19 for the long-term,” Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kieran Moore told a news conference.
Ontario’s seven-day average of COVID-19 cases sat at 503 on Wednesday, compared to 379 a week earlier.
The province has said hospital and intensive care capacity remains stable, but the positivity rate is increasing, as is the average number of people that a person with COVID-19 will infect.
Moore had predicted a rise in cases as fall set in, and said that so long as everyone keeps public health measures in mind, there’s no need for alarm.
“I am happy at present with the trends that we have, limiting the effect on our health-care system, but we have to maintain those for the coming weeks and months,” he said.
Public health experts told The Canadian Press this week that the province’s move to lift capacity limits in restaurants and stadiums, combined with the cooler weather, could be behind the increased spread.
Moore also sought to reassure Ontarians that the province wouldn’t reverse course on reopening, and would avoid the sorts of provincewide school closures that became a fixture of the last academic year.
“At a provincial level, I honestly don’t see us stepping backwards. It’s always been my advice to government that if we have to, we’ll pause, but we won’t take steps backwards,” he said.
He said, however, that some public health units may have to reverse course, depending on local trends.
“This battle against a fast, furious foe will be fought at a regional level,” Moore said.
Public health officials for the Sudbury, Ont., area said Monday they would reintroduce capacity limits, require masking at organized public events and require proof of vaccination for youth sports due to a rapidly rising number of cases they said wasn’t linked to any particular setting.
The Progressive Conservative government plans to slowly ease public health restrictions until all measures are lifted, including mask mandates and proof-of-vaccination requirements.
It hopes to accomplish this by the end of March, depending on whether cases spike after the winter holidays.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 10, 2021.
Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press
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