The province is taking drastic measures to address the rise in COVID-19 cases driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant.
Government officials say it is highly transmissible and has led to a higher number of hospital admissions compared to ICU admissions.
Staff absenteeism will also increase and will affect workplaces across Ontario due to Omicron infection and exposure, including in hospitals and schools.
“The rapid rise in Omicron cases, which could soon be hundreds of thousands, could lead to an overcrowding in the province’s hospital capacity if no further measures are taken to reduce transmission. “For example, doing 50,000 cases a day would mean 500 hospital admissions a day, which is more than the 265-day hospitalization peak since last spring, when hospitals had a lot of tension in the third wave of the pandemic.” reads a provincial statement.
Therefore, the reopening of the province on January 5th will be changed to the second step of the Roadmap for at least 21 days until January 26th.
Schools are moving online
The children will not return to class as planned this week.
- All publicly and privately funded schools will switch to distance learning from January 5 at least until January 17, taking into account public health trends and operating accounts.
- The opening of school buildings to kindergartens would be allowed, including emergency childcare, to provide personal instruction to students with special educational needs who cannot be remotely accommodated and staff who cannot provide quality home education.
- During this distance learning period, free emergency child care will be provided to school-age children in health care and other eligible front-line staff.
More measures in the second step
- Reduce intersection limits to five people inside and 10 people outside.
- Limit capacity to public events within five people.
- Requiring companies and organizations to ensure that employees work remotely if the nature of their work does not require them to be on site.
- Limit capacity to indoor weddings, funerals and religious services, rites and ceremonies to 50 per cent of the particular hall. Outdoor services are limited to the number of people who can maintain a physical distance of 2 meters. The intersections associated with these services must meet the boundaries of the intersections.
- Retail settings, including shopping malls, are supported at 50 percent capacity. Physical distance to the shopping areas will be required on the lines, walking will not be allowed and food areas will have to be closed.
- Personal care services with a 50 percent content and other restrictions are allowed. Saunas, steam rooms and oxygen bars closed.
- Closing indoor and event venues with limited exceptions, but allowing outdoor spaces to be open with restrictions.
- Public library capacity is limited to 50 percent.
- Closure of indoor dining in restaurants, bars and other food and beverage establishments. Outside dinners are subject to restrictions, carry, drive and delivery.
- Sale of alcohol from 22:00 and restriction, delivery and transport of alcohol in companies or places from 22:00, excluding grocery / convenience stores and other liquor stores.
- Indoor concert halls, theaters, movie theaters, rehearsals and recorded performances are allowed with restrictions.
- Closure of museums, galleries, zoos, science centers, landmarks, historic sites, botanical gardens and similar attractions, amusement parks and water parks, tour and guide services and fairs, rural exhibitions and festivals. External establishments authorized to open with restrictions and audience occupancy, if applicable, limited to 50 per cent capacity.
- Closure of indoor horse tracks, car racing tracks and other similar places. Outside establishments that are allowed to open with restrictions and spectator occupancy are limited to 50 percent. Boat trips are allowed at 50 percent capacity.
- Closure of indoor sports and leisure fitness facilities, including gyms, with the exception of athletes who train for the Olympics and Paralympics and some professional and elite amateur sports leagues. Outdoor facilities are allowed to operate, but the number of spectators will not exceed 50 percent occupancy and other conditions.
The province is also reintroducing Directive 2 for hospitals and regulated health professionals, ordering hospitals to pause all non-emergency and non-emergency surgeries and procedures to preserve critical care and human resource capacity.