Ontario to Enter Step 3 of Covid-19 Re-opening Early

Ontario is moving to Step 3 of its re-opening plan on Friday, July 16, five days earlier than planned, allowing for larger indoor and outdoor gatherings. The move allows for outdoor social gatherings of up to 100 people and up to 25 people inside.

Indoor sports and recreational fitness facilities, including gyms, would be able to open again at 50% capacity or a maximum of 1,000 people, whichever is less. Indoor dining, retail and personal care would have no capacity limits as long as patrons can properly physically distance. Religious services and events such as weddings and funerals can also operate indoors, as long as people are following other public health measures.

Places such as museums, aquariums, casinos and bingo halls can run at 50% capacity indoors and 75% outdoors. Cinemas will also be allowed to open under the same restrictions (the sale of popcorn and other food will be allowed).

Safe to move to next re-opening step

The move also allows for concerts, theatres and sports facilities to operate at 50% capacity inside, with a max of 1,000 people. If outside, they can run at 75% capacity with a max of 5,000 people for unseated events and 15,000 people for events with fixed seating.

Nightclubs will also be allowed to reopen, with a maximum of 250 people or 25% capacity. The province says patrons are exempt from physical distancing requirements when dancing, but that face coverings must also be worn and businesses must record the name and contact information of every patron.

For a full list of what restrictions will change in Step 3, click here. The provincial mandate for masks indoors will remain in place until at least September.

Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health said as recently as June 30 that he wanted Ontario to stay in Step 2 for at least three full weeks, however with falling case counts and high vaccination rates, he believes it is safe to move forward earlier than planned. “Our immunization strategy is working really, really well,” he said. “I didn’t see any reason to hold us back.”

Ontario was originally slated to move to Step 3 on July 21, but the province has passed its COVID-19 vaccination target for entering Step 3, with nearly 79% of adults vaccinated with one dose and more than 50% fully vaccinated as of July 7.

Source: CBC

Quebec Businesses Want Vaccine Passport System to Be Simple, Not a Burden

Business owners say they are happy Quebec’s vaccine-passport system will allow them to operate during potential COVID-19 outbreaks this fall but they worry the health order will become burdensome and another source of conflict with clients. The province has taken the lead in Canada on this issue, stating that in September, it will need people to prove they are vaccinated to enter non-essential businesses — such as bars and gyms — in parts of the province where COVID-19 transmission is high.

Gabriel Hardy, a gym owner and the Quebec spokesman for the Fitness Industry Council of Canada, says he’s worried the passport system will become another hassle as his members try to recover from the pandemic. “We had to deal with all the measures: distancing, limiting capacity, bookings, mandatory masks, managing anti-maskers,” Hardy said in an interview. “We had to go through a lot of steps and deal with unsatisfied clients, and this one is just another (step).”

Francis Bérubé, policy analyst for the Quebec chapter of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, says the proposed health order shows the government is serious about keeping the economy open if cases should rise. “It’s evident that if there’s another lockdown, it’s going to be catastrophic for certain businesses,” Bérubé said in an interview.

Quebec’s government has provided vaccinated residents with a QR code as proof they received one or doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. People are also issued paper vaccination records. And while the government hasn’t yet released details about how the passport system would work, Bérubé said he expects to be consulted before it’s implemented so he can offer advice on how to reduce the burden on businesses.

The proof-of-vaccination system, Bérubé added, must be simple because businesses are already managing a slew of COVID-19 health orders. “Our job will be to ensure that this measure, if applied, remains simple and favourable to business owners.” he said.

Despite his concerns, Hardy said he recognizes the passport system will help gyms operate amid a potential fourth wave. Gyms, he added, were among the first places to close and among the last to reopen during the lockdowns. “We saw how people were affected by lack of exercise, how anxiety levels rose because we weren’t able to evacuate the stress,” Bérubé said.

Hardy, however, is questioning how he will handle unvaccinated people who paid for yearly memberships and who will not be permitted to enter his gym during periods of high COVID-19 transmission. “Are we supposed to tell our clients, who already paid, that they can’t use our services?” Hardy asked.

Source: CBC

Province Wide COVID-19 Restrictions Lifted in Saskatchewan

An assortment of emotions ranging from unease and caution to excitement and joy have been bubbling up among Saskatchewanians anticipating life without government-mandated public health measures. The public health restrictions that were put in place to help manage COVID-19, including mandatory masking and limitations on gatherings, lifted on July 11.

Now people can choose to return to shout-talking at friends in crowded pubs, walking any direction down grocery store aisles and leaving home without a mask in hand. Premier Scott Moe has said that the province will no longer look to control COVID-19 through government intervention or restrictions, but instead will rely on vaccines.

Slightly more than 50% of Saskatchewan residents aged 12 and up were fully vaccinated, as of July 8, and just over 71% of that age group had received their first dose.

Some businesses keeping restrictions in place

Some business owners — who have to consider the health of their staff and customers — don’t plan to return to pre-pandemic ways just yet. For example, some plan to continue with mandatory masking or monitoring the number of individuals in a space.

The government said it “is the choice of an individual business or facility to implement their own masking policy.  If you enter a facility that requires a mask, patrons must respect the decision of the business and either comply or choose not to visit the establishment.”

Source: CBC