Yes, Ontario’s leadership finally just announced a new plan for yet another form of gradual reopening, to the joy of millions of residents and business owners who have been suffering under yet another a stint of more stringent lockdown measures in the midst of the worst of winter.
The public can now look forward to the return of restaurants, gyms, event venues and other businesses that were forced to close down in-person operations earlier this month in a push to mitigate the Omicron variant’s impact on the healthcare sector, while things like gathering limits are also being relaxed.
It’s all part of a three-phase plan, with new changes coming into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 31, Feb. 21 and March 14.
But, one thing that is notably missing from the government’s detailed timeline and associated rules is anything about a forthcoming end to certain measures that were supposed to be only temporary but have gone on for months, such as the vaccine passport and mask mandate for all indoor public spaces.
Face masks became compulsory in Toronto all the way back on July 7, 2020, and then across Ontario on Oct. 4 that year.
While some cities have already extended their own bylaws into 2022 — Toronto is set to reassess the directive and potentially extend it at a council meeting this month — the provincial government stated in late October that face coverings would continue to be a thing until a tentative date of March 28, 2022.
In this latest announcement Thursday, there is no update on the topic, nor about vaccine passports, aside from the mention that enhanced proof of vaccination (the QR code format) will continue to be required in many settings.
This is despite the fact that countries such as the U.K. have recently done away with both measures, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson attributed in part to strong booster uptake and the success of existing public policies for curbing virus spread.
Speaking of the vaccine passport specifically before it was introduced in Ontario in September 2021, Premier Doug Ford assured the public that “we are bringing in these exceptional measures on a temporary basis and will end them as soon as they can be responsibly removed.”
But, given the notoriously cautious approach of Ontario’s health officials and the absence of anything about face coverings or vaxpasses in the phased reopening plan, it will indeed likely be some time before Ford and his team consider lifting these particular orders.