Multiple sources tell CTV News Toronto that the Ford administration expects to allow eateries to reopen at 50% capacity by the end of the month before gradually relaxing other public health restrictions in February.
On Jan. 5, Ontario reverted to a modified version of Step 2 of its reopening plan, resulting in the suspension of in-person meals at pubs and restaurants as well as the complete shutdown of a number of other companies.
The limits were scheduled to last until at least January 26th, but they were only lifted if public health indicators improved.
According to multiple sources, the Ford government now plans to allow 50 per cent capacity in restaurants as of Jan. 31 with an official announcement coming tomorrow.
Sources have also told CTV News Toronto that Ford’s cabinet is considering a full reopening in March,
At this point it remains unclear when other sectors that are currently prohibited from operating, such as gyms and theatres, will be able to reopen but Premier Doug Ford did appear to suggest that “positive news” was coming for shuttered business while speaking with a cameraperson at Queen’s Park earlier on Wednesday.
“It is going to be a positive announcement that we make this week and I look forward to it. Nobody dislikes the shutdowns more than I do. I actually despise them but in saying that health is a priority and I follow the guidelines of the chief medical officer. But we look forward to having a good announcement for restaurants and gyms and other folks who have been closed,” he said.
News of the return of in-person dining comes in the wake of a morning press conference in which Health Minister Christine Elliott said that Ontario is now seeing “glimmers of hope” in its battle against the Omicron variant.
Dr. Peter Juni, who is the scientific director of Ontario’s science table, also told CP24 on Tuesday that he expects hospitalizations related to COVID-19 to peak this week. Juni, however, warned that there will continue to be an immense strain on hospitals.
Speaking with CP24 on Wednesday afternoon, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa seemed to welcome the lifting of some restrictions while warning that it must be done gradually.
“We have seen the need for a cautious and slow approach and it sounds to me like what the province may be doing, and this is just based on what you’re telling me now, is going backwards from where they were, you know, in terms of rolling back the restrictions in the order that they implemented them in the first place,” she said. “The real key here is taking it slowly, giving some time to observe what the impact of the changes are before proceeding to the next step. We’ve seen that time and time again, in our own experience and we’ve certainly seen that in other jurisdictions. So I think those would be wise lessons to heed from our own past and the experiences of others.”
On Tuesday, a total of 4,132 patients were admitted to hospitals with COVID-19, down 51 from the previous day’s all-time high. Five hundred and ninety-nine persons were in intensive care.