Toronto, ON — Ontario will temporarily move into a modified stage two of the “Roadmap to Reopen” as of Jan. 5. In response to recent trends that show an increase in COVID-19 hospitalization, the Ont. government announced on Jan. 3 that the province will be in another lockdown for at least another 21 days (until Jan. 26).
According to provincially collected data, there are currently 1,144 who have tested positive and are in hospital. This is an increase of 179 patients from the previous day and was reported for Dec. 31 — no data was released by the province from Jan. 1 to Jan. 3. As part of the same collected data, the province is reporting 205 patients in the intensive care unit (ICU), while 104 within the ICU are on a ventilator (about 51 per cent).
“As we continue with our provincial vaccine booster efforts, we must look at every option to slow the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant,” said Premier Doug Ford in a press release. “Putting these targeted and time-limited measures in place will give us more opportunity to deliver vaccines to all Ontarians and ensure everyone has maximum protection against this virus.” The Omicron variant is less severe, however, it has a high transmissibility rate and has resulted in a larger number of hospital admissions relative to ICU admissions, reports the province. In addition, the province is expecting staff absenteeism to rise and affect operation in workplaces across the province, including in hospitals and schools.
Important measures to note are:
- Reduced social gathering limits to five people indoors and 10 people outdoors.
- Limited capacity at organized public events to five people indoors.
- Businesses and organizations are required to ensure employees work remotely unless the nature of their work requires them to be on-site.
- Retail settings are permitted at 50 per cent capacity.
- Indoor meeting and event spaces are closed with limited exceptions.
- All publicly funded and private schools will move to remote learning starting Jan. 5 until at least Jan. 17, subject to public health trends and operational considerations.
- School buildings would be permitted to open for childcare operations, including emergency childcare.
The province has announced that it will expand on its new Ontario Business Costs Rebate Program. Eligible businesses that are required to close or reduce capacity will receive rebate payments for a portion of the property tax and energy costs they incur while subject to these new provincial measures.
Eligible businesses required to reduce capacity to 50 per cent will receive a rebate payment equivalent to 50 per cent of their costs, while businesses required to close for indoor activities will receive a rebate payment equivalent to 100 per cent of their costs. A full list of eligible business types will be available later this month.
Business struggling will cash flow will be able to apply for a six-month, interest- and penalty-free period to make payments related to provincially administered taxes.
“As cases continue to rise at a rapid rate and evidence on the Omicron variant evolves, additional time-limited measures are needed to help limit transmission as Team Ontario continues to get booster doses into arms,” said Christine Elliott, deputy premier and minister of health. “While this was not an easy decision, these measures will help preserve hospital bed capacity and prevent our hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.”
According to the government, they are also exploring options for providing further targeted and necessary support for businesses and workers impacted by the province’s move in Stage Two, which could include grants.