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‘Cautious’ approach for re-opening beginning January 31

TORONTO – Restaurants and other indoor spaces currently closed to the public will re-open at reduced capacity beginning January 31. Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced Thursday morning that public health indicators are pointing to a peak in the Omicron wave of the pandemic and that the measures put in place January 5 were working.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Ford responded to reporters at Queen’s Park. “We’re doing everything we can to bolster the health care system.”

The Premier announced that restaurants, bars, and other food/drink businesses that do not have dance facilities can reopen at 50 per cent capacity. Meeting and event spaces, movie theatres, gyms, and other venues that were closed in the January 5 round of restrictions can reopen at 50 per cent capacity. Spectator areas at sporting events, concerts, and performance theatre can reopen at 50 per cent capacity or 500 people – whichever number is less.

Social gathering limits will increase to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.

Ford said the per cent positivity level for the wave had dropped to 15.9 per cent, it had reached a peak of almost 40 per cent.

“While February will continue to present its own challenges, given current trends these are challenges we are confident we can manage.”

The reopening move is the first of three steps for reopening. On February 21, restrictions will further ease capacity and gathering limits. The province will return to the level of restrictions and capacity allowances that were in place before the Omicron wave on March 14. All three reopening steps are reliant on continued public health measures improving.

“As we continue to chart our path forward, we will continue to take a gradual and cautious approach to lifting public health measures to protect our hospital capacity and ensure patients can continue to access the care they need,” said Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott.

Eastern Ontario Health Unit medical officer of health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis confirmed to The Leader that youth sports programs like minor hockey can resume play beginning January 31.

“I just asked the same question to the Ministry [of Health]. The answer is yes,  indoor youth recreation sports programs can begin on January 31, 2022, as long as the facility adheres to the 50% capacity reductions,” Roumeliotis said.

Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said that the reopening may be paused at any point between now and March if the current improving trend reverses.

“The months ahead will require continued vigilance, as we don’t want to cause any further disruption to people’s everyday lives,” Moore said. “We must continue to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in our communities by following the measures in place and by vaccinating those who have not yet received their doses.”

Locally in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit region, confirmed COVID-19 infections remain at a high level with 3,402 active cases. As of January 18, 37 people were hospitalized, seven of those were in Intensive Care. There are 41 facility outbreaks in the region. Test positivity in the region is above the provincial average at 21.5 per cent. There have been no new deaths reported since January 13. The regional death toll remains at 140 people.

The EOHU released an interim update on COVID-19 statistics January 19. This included and update on vaccinations. Eighty-one per cent of residents age five and older have had one dose, 80.9 per cent two doses, and 45.2 three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. Breaking down by age group, children between five-and-11 years old have reached 46.9 per cent for first dose vaccinations.

Reporter’s Note – The numbers published Wednesday correct those from Public Health Ontario which had miscalculated the number of deaths attributed to the EOHU.

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