“Like many jurisdictions around the world, Ontario is facing a serious threat from the rapidly spreading Omicron variant. The situation continues to evolve rapidly and the modeling that was released yesterday is clear: unless action is taken quickly there could be severe consequences,” Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, announced in a press conference on Friday.
Effective on Dec. 19 at 12:01 a.m., informal social gatherings will be limited to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.
The province will also place a 50 percent capacity limit on indoor public settings, such as restaurants, bars, gyms, grocery stores, shopping malls, and personal care services.
Additional measures were introduced to prohibit food and drink services in certain public settings, including sporting events, concert venues, theatres and cinemas, casinos, bingo halls, and other recreational establishments.
In restaurants and other meeting or event spaces, up to 10 people are allowed to sit together at a table. At concert venues, theatres, and cinemas, patrons are required to remain seated.
Ontario government is also changing closing hours for certain venues.
Restaurants, bars, other food or drink establishments, meeting and event spaces, and strip clubs that serve food and drink like a restaurant are required to close at 11 p.m., with exceptions for takeout and delivery.
“I know this is not the situation any of us wanted to be in especially during the holiday season, but it’s clear Omicron will not take a holiday,” Moore said. “These measures will give us time to continue to vaccinate more Ontarians with booster doses that provide an additional layer of protection against Omicron.”
Moore said more Ontarians will become eligible to book an appointment for their third booster dose starting on Dec. 20.
He gave no date as to when the government will be able to determine actual impacts of Omicron and reevaluate whether the new measures are necessary. Research this month from South Africa shows that the variant is less harmful.
“I want to assure Ontarians we’re following the data very closely. We don’t want to create over-concern regarding this. We want everyone to remain calm,” Moore said.
“If we’re finding that it’s not virulent, we’ll communicate that and perhaps public health measures can be modified.”