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Ontario businesses to reopen at 50% Jan. 31

Ontario Doug Ford with health officials and Canadian flags behind him.
Doug Ford
Ontario Doug Ford announced the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions Thursday.

COVID-19 restrictions in Ontario will be eased beginning at the end of the month. Premier Doug Ford on Thursday announced it will be a three-step plan to gradually lift the measures.

There have been hints about a positive announcement coming from the Ontario legislature all week. Now it’s become official.

Ford said businesses, indoor dining and gyms will reopen at 50% capacity at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 31. Arenas, concert venues and theaters will be capped at 500 people. Social gatherings will increase to 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors.

Ford said the reopening process will be a cautious one.

“We’re taking a phased approach, with 21 days between each step, to make sure we haven’t moved too fast. If trends remain stable or improve, Ontario will move to the next step on Feb. 21 and then March 14,” he said.

Ford said he knows that some people believe the reopening isn’t coming fast enough and there will others who say it’s too fast. But he said the government needs to remain cautious, especially with children going back to classes this week.

“We want to do everything humanly possible to avoid having to go backwards. If that means pausing between steps for a few extra days, we won’t hesitate to do so,” Ford said.

The premier said there are positive signs that the Omicron wave is reaching its peak in Ontario. The positivity rate has declined to 15%, new admissions to hospitals are beginning to slow, patients are spending less time in the hospital when admitted and healthcare staffing is stabilizing.

Ford did not provide a date for when Ontario’s proof of vaccination system and mask mandate will be lifted.