Capacity limits for restaurants, gyms to lift Monday: sources

CityNews has learned that capacity limits for restaurants and gyms in Ontario will be lifted next week.

By Dilshad Burman and Lucas Casaletto

CityNews has learned that capacity limits for restaurants and gyms in Ontario will be lifted next week.

According to sources, as of Monday, the social distancing measures that had restaurants and gyms running at only a percentage of their full capacity will be removed.

Capacity limits will also be lifted at event spaces where proof of vaccination is required.

The official announcement is expected Friday, once approved by Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore.

Earlier this week, Ford confirmed that he would meet with his cabinet to discuss a plan for moving beyond the province’s current reopening framework.

“We want to make sure we have a plan to stand the test of time moving forward,” Ford said in Windsor on Monday. “We never, ever want to shut down this economy again.”

The province paused plans in mid-August to exit Step 3 of its reopening framework as fourth wave cases were rising. Now, daily COVID-19 case counts are stable, and more than 87 per cent of eligible Ontarians have received at least one dose of a vaccine.

The province says it’s making the changes based on high vaccination rates, stable public health indicators and the vaccine certificate policy, noting there have been few outbreaks in the selected settings.

RELATED: Restaurants disappointed after being left behind as capacity limits loosened in Ontario

Business groups have expressed frustration and anger since the government announced late last week that it was lifting capacity limits for some settings that require patrons to be fully vaccinated, but not others.

Customer capacity is 50 per cent in most restaurants and in gyms.

Cinemas, theatres, concert venues, meeting and event spaces, and spectator sports venues were allowed to open with 100 per cent capacity, and physical distancing mostly isn’t required. Restaurants don’t have a percentage capacity cap but are limited by distancing requirements between tables.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce said they didn’t understand why capacity limits could be lifted on those large venues, but not at small businesses such as restaurants and fitness studios.

The CFIB said small business owners are wondering why the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators can pack in fans at full capacity, while a bowling alley can’t open more than half of its lanes.

For much of the summer, the province’s top doctor warned of a September surge, followed by a bleak fall and winter. That has not materialized as the daily case counts remain under 1,000 and the graph of Ontario’s seven-day average roughly shows a plateau since the beginning of October.

Wonderful to see Ontario doing so well at keeping COVID-19 rates low. This is probably due to a slow and methodical reopening plan coupled with maintaining public health measures,” Infectious Diseases physician Dr. Isaac Bogoch said on Thursday.

“It’s still way too soon for the ‘mission accomplished’ banner, but by most metrics, October is very good.”

Bogoch said last week that if Ontario decides to further lift COVID-19 measures and restrictions, they should “not be shy to scale things back if and when metrics start heading in the wrong direction,” and before hospitalization and ICU capacity is an issue.

“Been there, done that,” he said. “Pandemic is not over (yet).”

Ontario reported 413 new COVID-19 cases today, 273 of them in people who are not fully vaccinated or whose vaccination status is unknown.

The province is also logging four more deaths from the virus.

The province says 87 per cent of Ontario residents aged 12 and older have one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 83 per cent have received both shots.

With files from Richard Southern of CityNews and The Canadian Press

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