Ontario lifts capacity limits where proof of vaccination is required

TORONTO — Municipal leaders and business owners in Ontario welcomed the lifting of capacity limits for facilities requiring proof of COVID-19 immunization on Monday, but said more help is needed to bounce back from the pandemic.

Starting at midnight, restaurants, gyms, casinos and other locations required to ask customers for proof of immunization could open to a full house.

Other spaces not subject to that provincial rule, like museums and galleries, places of worship and personal care services, were also permitted to open at full capacity if they required proof of vaccination.

Edison Xue, the manager of La Prep restaurant in downtown Toronto, said the province’s decision to lift capacity restrictions is good, but won’t help his business as long people continue to mostly work from home.

“It’s really hard to say (if it’s) going to help my business or not because my business really depends on how the pandemic goes,” Xue said on Monday.

“It really depends (on) how many people really come back to work, not like once or twice a week.”

Mayors of the largest municipalities in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area said they support the province’s move to lift capacity limits.

“This is a sign of the progress we have made across the GTHA and the entire province combatting COVID-19 and getting residents vaccinated,” the group said in a written statement following a meeting.

They also encouraged people to support local businesses, especially restaurants still struggling from losses they accumulated during the health crisis.

“Many businesses have a COVID hangover from the earlier stages of the pandemic and need our support by shopping, eating and drinking local,” the statement said.

Premier Doug Ford announced the changes on Friday as he unveiled long-term plans for managing the pandemic.

Those plans include aiming to remove all public health measures meant to slow the spread of COVID-19 by late March, including mask mandates.

Proof-of-vaccination requirements will start to be lifted early next year _ as long as trends don’t become concerning _ starting with restaurants, bars, gyms and casinos in January.

Ford described his approach to loosening restrictions as “super cautious” but some experts have noted that it’s hard to know what the situation in Ontario will be in January or March.

Meanwhile, some Ontario museums have said they plan to take up the option of requiring guests be vaccinated.

The Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto started asking for vaccination proof last Friday. The rule applies to those aged 12 and older.

A similar policy is set to take effect at the Royal Ontario Museum on Oct. 27. The museum said it would ask for proof of immunization at all paid access points.

Ontario reported 326 new COVID-19 cases on Monday and no new deaths from the virus.

The province said 87 per cent of residents aged 12 and older had at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and 83 per cent had received both shots.

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