Here we go again ... Ontario Government Further Strengthening Response to Omicron

By: Kw Now Local News
| Published 12/18/2021


New capacity limits and proof of vaccination requirements at some city facilities

'We’re all tired. I know none of us wanted to hear this news.' - Mayor Berry Vrbanovic

KITCHENER – Beginning Sunday, Dec. 19, indoor city facilities will be operating at 50 per cent capacity to reduce transmission of the rapidly spreading and highly transmissible Omicron variant.

To reduce the opportunity for close contact and allow as many people as possible to get vaccines, effective 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, Dec 19 the province introduced a 50 per cent capacity limit for indoor public settings including restaurants, bars, personal care services, grocery stores, concert venues, theatres, meeting and event spaces, shopping malls, indoor sport and recreational facilities, and gyms. These capacity limits do not apply to wedding, funeral, or religious services, rites, or ceremonies.

“We’re all tired. I know none of us wanted to hear this news during this time of year as we were all hopeful for a very different ending to 2021 and start to 2022,” added Mayor Berry Vrbanovic. “But the holiday season is filled with gratitude, hope and love and I know we will make the adjustments we need to make, support each other, and find ways to celebrate safely so that we are able to put this potential tsunami of cases resulting from the Omicron variant in our rear-view mirror as well.”

“Today’s news from Premier Ford echoes the calls that have been made by many in the medical and scientific community – the Omicron variant spreads extremely rapidly and we must all take steps now in order to stay ahead of the high number of cases expected in the coming weeks,” said Mayor Berry Vrbanovic. “As difficult as today’s news from the province is, I applaud the provincial government for taking this critical step to minimize potential exposure by reducing interactions, in order to protect both us and our healthcare system, which is strained and exhausted from the past 21 months of the pandemic.”

View the provincial government's press release below:

Ontario Further Strengthening Response to Omicron

TORONTO — In response to the rapidly-spreading and highly transmissible Omicron variant, the Ontario government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, is applying additional public health and workplace safety measures, including capacity and social gathering limits. These measures will help curb transmission and continue to safeguard the Ontario’s hospitals and ICU capacity as the province continues to rapidly accelerate its booster dose rollout.

“Throughout this entire pandemic, we’ve never faced an enemy like Omicron given how quickly it spreads,” said Premier Doug Ford. “We need to do everything we can to slow its spread as we continue to dramatically ramp up capacity to get as many booster shots into arms as possible. Doing so is the best way to safeguard our hospital and intensive care units.”

The latest modelling suggests that the increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant could put additional strain on Ontario’s hospital capacity, making it critical to slow the spread as the government dramatically increases vaccine capacity and expands eligibility for booster doses. The province recently doubled its vaccination capacity and continues to ramp up further to get as many vaccines into arms as possible. Over 156,000 doses were administered on December 16, 2021 with capacity increased to 200,000 to 300,000 in the coming days.

To further strengthen its response to Omicron and reduce opportunities for close contact as the province gets as many vaccines into arms as possible, Ontario is introducing a 50 per cent capacity limit in the following indoor public settings:

  • Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments and strip clubs;
  • Personal care services;
  • Personal physical fitness trainers;
  • Retailers (including grocery stores and pharmacies);
  • Shopping malls;
  • Non-spectator areas of facilities used for sports and recreational fitness activities (e.g. gyms);
  • Indoor recreational amenities;
  • Indoor clubhouses at outdoor recreational amenities;
  • Tour and guide services;
  • Photography studios and services;
  • Marinas and boating clubs;
  • Facilities used for sports and recreational fitness activities;
  • Entertainment facilities such as concert venues, theatres and cinemas;
  • Racing venues;
  • Meeting and event spaces;
  • Studio audiences in commercial film and television production;
  • Museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos, science centres, landmarks, historic sites, botanical gardens and similar attractions;
  • Casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments; and
  • Fairs, rural exhibitions, and festivals.

These limits do not apply to any portion of a business or place that is being used for a wedding, a funeral or a religious service, rite, or ceremony. Businesses or facilities will also need to post a sign stating the capacity limits that are permitted in the establishment.

To further reduce the spread of COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, additional protective measures are also being applied:

  • The number of patrons permitted to sit at a table in a restaurant, bar and other food or drink establishment and meeting and event space will be limited to 10 people and patrons will be required to remain seated.
  • Patrons must remain seated at concerts venues, theatres and cinemas.
  • Bars and restaurants and meeting and event spaces and strip clubs that serve food and drink like a restaurant will be required to close by 11 p.m. Take out and delivery will be permitted beyond 11 p.m.
  • Singing and dancing in restaurants and bars and other select settings will not be allowed except for workers or performers.
  • Food and/or drink services will be prohibited at indoor sporting events; concert venues, theatres and cinemas; casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments; and horse racing tracks, car racing tracks and other similar venues. Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments including in these establishment can operate subject to the rules applicable to these settings (e.g., 50% capacity).
  • The sale of alcohol will be restricted after 10 p.m. and consumption of alcohol in businesses or settings after 11 p.m.

In addition, to mitigate COVID-19 transmission that can occur at informal social gatherings, the province is also reducing social gathering limits to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.

These restrictions will come into effect on 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, December 19, 2021.

“This was not an easy decision to make before the holidays, but the evidence is clear that further public health measures are required to slow the spread of Omicron and prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “As we expand booster eligibility and continue our Team Ontario effort to get as many shots into arms as possible, I am urging every single person to get their vaccine if they haven’t already done so, and sign up for their booster shot as soon as they’re able.”