Ontario is pausing its COVID-19 reopening plan and will stay in Step 3 indefinitely while trying to boost vaccinations.
During his news conference on Tuesday, the announcement came from Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore explaining that the province needs to prepare for the highly contagious Delta variant potentially surging in the fall.
“We are pausing our exit from the roadmap to reopen. We need to get the vaccination policies in place and our vaccination rates up,” he said. “This is what we need to do to protect Ontarians.”
Moore had previously said the province could exit Step 3 when 75% of the population has both vaccine doses while case counts and hospitalizations remain stable. Right now 74% of Ontarians 12 and up are fully immunized.
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Step 3 gives Ontarians more freedoms than the previous lockdowns and reopening steps have with some restrictions.
Outdoor social gatherings are limited to 100 people, indoor social gatherings are limited to 25 people, shops and restaurants must still allow space for customers to physically distance, and many venues such as cinemas, gyms, and sports complexes have capacity limits.
Restaurants or bars with dancing can only welcome a quarter of the usual number of patrons indoors.
Outdoor concerts can have a maximum of 5,000 people or 75% of the space’s capacity — whichever is less. If patrons are seated outdoors, the capacity limit increases to 15,000 people.
Individuals are also required to wear face masks in indoor public settings such as shops, workplaces, and salons.
Moore expects infections to increase in the fall as students head back to school and more people see each other indoors due to the cooler weather. That’s why he’s pushing for everyone in Ontario to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
He also unveiled new directives mandating vaccinations for workers in hospitals, schools, and childcare settings on Tuesday.
“We need to be proactive to avoid reactive closures,” he said. “Every shot in arms is our best shot out of this.”