The Government of Ontario has introduced new rules applicable across the province in its efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19, and in particular the Omicron variant. These rules were published in Ontario Regulation 865/21: Rules for Areas at Step 3 and at the Roadmap Exit Step, which amends existing rules. These rules took effect as of 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, December 19, 2021.
Among the new rules, the following are now in place:
- 50% capacity limits: The following spaces are subject to new indoor restrictions requiring that the total number of members of the public permitted indoors be limited to 50% capacity: meeting/event spaces, conference centres, convention centres, restaurants, bars, food trucks, concession stands, other food and drink establishments, personal care services, personal physical fitness training facilities, businesses that engage in retail sales to the public (including indoor shopping malls), indoor sports and recreation facilities, studio audiences for film and television production, photography studios, concert venues, theatres, cinemas, museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos, science centres, landmarks, historic sites, botanical gardens and similar attractions, casinos, bingo halls, and gaming establishments, horse racing tracks, car racing tracks and other similar venues, part of any tour by a tour or guide service that goes indoors, marinas, boating clubs or other organizations that maintain docking facilities and strip clubs. These establishments are also required to post their new capacity limits in a conspicuous location visible to the public.
- Liquor service restricted: Businesses and places which sell liquor can only do so between the hours of 9 a.m. and 10 p.m., and no consumption of liquor inside a business or place is permitted to occur between 11 p.m. and 9 a.m., with limited exceptions (e.g. airports).
- Hours restrictions for bars and restaurants: Bars, restaurants, food trucks, concession stands, nightclubs, restoclubs and other similar establishments, and other food and drink establishments, can only permit the public into their spaces for indoor dining between the hours of 5 a.m. and 11 p.m., though they may have takeout, drive-through or delivery services outside those hours.No dancing, singing or karaoke are permitted. Patrons are required to be seated at all times, with some limitations (e.g., going to a washroom).
- New rules for outdoor food and drink establishments with dancing: Outdoor dancing establishments are permitted, subject to new capacity limits at the establishment (50% capacity or 5,000 people, whichever is less) and significant other new requirements.
- No food or drink services at entertainment venues: Unless through a bar or restaurant located within an establishment and complying with the applicable rules, concert venues, theatres, cinemas, casinos, bingo halls, gaming establishments, horse racing tracks, car racing tracks and similar venues, are prohibited from selling liquor and food.
- Social gatherings restrictions changed: Social gathering limits have been reduced from 25 people to 10 people for indoor gatherings, and from 100 people to 25 people for outdoor gatherings.
Responding to the Developing Situation
These measures are only some of many recent government pronouncements and initiatives in reaction to the elevated number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Ontario. The Government of Ontario has encouraged employers to make every effort to allow employees to work from home. Several local medical officers of health across the province have also issued directives and advice to employers within their health unit boundaries, including (in some cases), requiring business to ensure remote work except where on-site presence is required. Recent additional measures are also in place in some of the health units most currently affected by the pandemic, such as Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington, including certain screening of staff and patrons.
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