On March 21, Ontario will repeal most mask laws, including those in schools, restaurants, gyms, and retailers across the province, with the remaining COVID-19 regulations slated to expire by the end of April.
According to the province, these actions are enabled by improved health indicators such as a steady COVID-19 test positivity rate and reducing hospitalizations, as well as Ontario’s high vaccination rate and the availability of antiviral therapies. Dr. Kieran Moore, the province’s senior medical officer of health, revealed the new adjustments on Wednesday.
“We are now learning to live with and manage COVID-19 for the long term,” Moore said. “This necessitates a shift to a more balanced response to the pandemic.”
Moore, on the other hand, stated that lifting the mask rule “does not indicate the risk is gone” or that the pandemic is done. He warned that if there is another increase in COVID-19 instances, masking rules may need to be restored, and that vulnerable person should continue to take care notwithstanding the relaxation of limitations.
“We should all be prepared that we may need to resume mask-wearing,” he said, adding that he hopes anyone who remains vulnerable will continue to wear a mask.
“We will closely, carefully monitor COVID-19 trends across the province. We will not hesitate to take action should the situation change and we will inform Ontarians of any significant developments,” he said.
The next step in Ontario’s reopening will take place on March 14, when compulsory vaccinate-or-test regulations for workers in schools, child-care settings, hospitals, and long-term care facilities will be phased out. Individual institutions can maintain their own restrictions, and most hospitals have stated that they would maintain their tight immunization mandates.
On March 21, most indoor locations in the province, including restaurants, retail, fitness centers, grocery stores, and schools, will be exempt from masking rules. Regulations for public transportation, long-term care, retirement homes, shelters, jails, and congregate care and housing settings will stay in effect for a time. Toronto’s top doctor has recommended that the city’s mask restrictions expire in tandem with those of Ontario.
Other school-based measures, such as daily on-site screening, will be phased out on that date. Furthermore, all other regulatory requirements for enterprises, such as passive screening and safety procedures, will be eliminated. The remaining mask requirements and emergency directives will then expire on April 27. Moreover, Ontario is broadening the types of facilities eligible for PCR testing to include home and community care settings as well as provincial demonstration schools.
Prior to Moore’s decision, Ontario Premier Doug Ford stated that the province will remain cautious even if mask regulations are repealed, adding that “anyone who wants to wear a mask is more than welcome to do so.” Last Monday, the government eliminated proof-of-vaccination requirements for select enterprises as well as capacity limits for businesses and social events, reversing some pandemic health safeguards.
Dr. Peter Jüni, chair of Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table, stated that “it’s too early to say” if abolishing mask mandates is the best course of action at this time. Before the announcement, Jüni was questioned if the province’s decision was based on science or politics on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning.
“It’s not supported by science right now because it’s just too early. We would need at least one to two weeks more data to say, ‘okay we’re stable and we just make it to the next step,” he said.
According to Dr. Gerald Evans, an infectious diseases expert, the removal of capacity limitations, vaccine certificates, and mask demands is happening quickly, and mask requirements should have been maintained in place until the weather warms and virus activity naturally decreases. The government’s plan was also faced with opposition from one of the country’s main school unions.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) termed the plan “premature” in a news release, saying it puts pupils at danger of having in-person learning disturbed once more. Close contacts of someone infected with COVID-19 or who is symptomatic will also be subjected to new isolation guidelines on Wednesday.
Nobody who has close contact with a person with COVID-19 outside their family is required to quarantine, though they are still advised to wear a mask outside the home for 10 days and avoid high-risk people and circumstances. Whenever a household member tests positive or has symptoms, they do not need to isolate if they are 18 or older and have had a booster dose, are under 18 and have received two vaccine doses, or have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days.
Beginning Friday, Ontario will also change the way it reports COVID-19 deaths. The province will determine if COVID-19 caused or contributed to a death, or if the cause of death is unknown or undetermined. In addition, Ontario will record deaths by vaccination status and age group, and any deaths that are now identified as unconnected to COVID-19 will be removed from the cumulative total.
According to information compiled by the province on Wednesday, the virus was responsible for the majority of reported COVID-19 deaths, with another 20% citing COVID-19 as a contributing factor. Unrelated fatalities account for less than 10% of all deaths.
On Wednesday, Ontario reported 1,947 new COVID-19 cases, however, Moore cautioned that the true number of new cases per day is likely ten times higher than what is being reported through inadequate PCR testing.
Legal Disclaimer: This article is provided for information purposes only.