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Sweeping restrictions return in Ontario, as omicron variant takes hold

Ontario Premier Doug Ford at a podium saying, "Protecting Our Progress" in English and French.
Doug Ford
Ontario Premier Doug Ford announces sweeping changes Wednesday to address the omicron variant.

Some sweeping changes have been announced in Ontario in a bid to curb the spread of the new COVID-19 variant, omicron. Some indoor capacity limits are being scaled back and vaccine boosters expanded.

As health experts and scientists warn of the high transmissibility of the omicron variant, governments, including Ontario, are reacting.

“All over the world we see increasing impact of this new variant," said Ontario Premier Doug Ford Wednesday. "While there remains much we still don’t know about omicron, there’s one indisputable fact: the omicron variant is the most contagious, the most transmissible variant of this virus that we’ve ever seen so far.”

Ford then announced significant changes to programs in Ontario, including offering booster doses to anyone over 18 beginning next Monday, and shortening the interval between a person’s second dose and booster shot from six months to three months.

"Omicron is now on the verge of becoming the dominant strain in Ontario," he said. "In fact it may already be. We will meet this new enemy with full force, because right now the best defense is a lightning fast offense. We will go after this variant with everything we have.”

Ford said he’s issuing a call to arms to hospitals, public health units, doctors, nurses, first responders and businesses and, most importantly, he adds, the people of Ontario.

He said COVID-19 rapid will tests will be available to residents at pop-up sites in high-traffic areas and other locations immediately, and he urged people to get their booster as soon as possible.

Ford also cut capacity limits, reimposing limits of 50% for indoor entertainment and sports and event venues with a capacity greater than 1,000 people. This could also included concerts, cinemas museums, galleries, exhibitions and historic sites — anywhere where there are large crowds of people who are often unmasked.

The new measures come as Ottawa has advised all Canadians not to travel outside the country for non-essential reasons.

Tweets by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau advising against non-essential travel outside Canada.
Justin Trudeau
Tweets by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau advising against non-essential travel outside Canada.