Today the Ontario Government announced that it was ending vaccination requirements for all businesses effective on March 1, 2022. The Ontario Government also announced today that it was moving up the date that businesses could increase capacity limits.
“Given how well Ontario has done in the Omicron wave we are able to fast track our reopening plan,” said Premier Doug Ford. “This is great news and a sign of just how far we’ve come together in our fight against the virus. While we aren’t out of the woods just yet we are moving in the right direction.”https://news.ontario.ca/en/release/1001600/ontario-moving-to-next-phase-of-reopening-on-february-17
Last month, Ontario released its plan to follow a cautious and phased approach to lifting public health and workplace safety measures if health indicators continued to remain stable and improve. Positivity rates have fallen and new admissions to hospital and ICU have been declining week over week, signalling that the Omicron wave has peaked. Over the coming days and weeks, these trends are expected to continue.
“Thanks to the province’s high vaccination rates and the continued sacrifices of Ontarians, we are now in a position where we can move forward in our plan earlier than anticipated,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “With hospitalizations and ICU admissions continuing to decline, we are committed to maintaining a gradual and cautious approach to protect our hospital capacity and ensure patients can access the care they need when they need it.”https://news.ontario.ca/en/release/1001600/ontario-moving-to-next-phase-of-reopening-on-february-17
Restrictions Ending February 17, 2022
Ontario will ease public health measures on February 17, 2022, by:
- Increasing social gathering limits to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors
- Increasing organized public event limits to 50 people indoors, with no limit outdoors
- Removing capacity limits in the following indoor public settings where proof of vaccination is required, including but not limited to:
- Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments without dance facilities
- Non-spectator areas of sports and recreational fitness facilities, including gyms
- Meeting and event spaces, including conference centres or convention centres
- Casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments
- Indoor areas of settings that choose to opt-in to proof of vaccination requirements.
- Allowing 50 per cent of the usual seating capacity at sports arenas
- Allowing 50 percent of the usual seating capacity for concert venues and theatres
- Increasing indoor capacity limits to 25 per cent in the remaining higher-risk settings where proof of vaccination is required, including nightclubs, restaurants where there is dancing, as well as bathhouses and sex clubs
- Increasing capacity limits for indoor weddings, funerals or religious services, rites, or ceremonies to the number of people who can maintain two metres physical distance. Capacity limits are removed if the location opts-in to use proof of vaccination or if the service, rite, or ceremony is occurring outdoors.
Capacity limits in other indoor public settings, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, retail and shopping malls, will be maintained at, or increased to, the number of people who can maintain two metres physical distance.
Restrictions Ending March 1, 2022
Ontario intends to end most other public health restrictions on March 1, 2022, if public health and health system indicators continue to improve. This includes lifting all capacity limits in all workplaces.
Ontario will also lift proof of vaccination requirements for all settings on March 1, 2022. This means businesses will no longer be legally required to ask customers for proof of vaccine. Businesses may choose to continue to require customers to provide proof of vaccination if they wish.
This announcement will have no immediate effect on workplace vaccine mandates. Most workplaces were never legally required to mandate vaccines for their employees. It was the employer’s choice. Thus, this announcement ending vaccines passports for customers will not affect whether the same businesses can mandate that their employees must get vaccinated because no law ever required them to do that anyway.
Masking requirements will remain on this date, with a specific timeline to lift the mask mandate to be communicated at a later date. Usually, the Ontario government makes covid restrictions announcements every two weeks on Fridays, so it is not a stretch to say that Ontario could announce an end to mask requirements around March 11, 2022, considering this will be the last restriction in effect at that time.
Jeff is an employment lawyer in Toronto. He is the Principal of the Dutton Employment Law Group at Monkhouse Law. Jeff is a frequent lecturer on employment law and is the author of an employment law textbook and various trade journal articles.