It’s time to move on from public-health restrictions aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19 because people are “done” with rules such as vaccine certificates and masks, Ontario’s Premier said on Tuesday.
A day after his Progressive Conservative government announced plans to speed up its business reopening plan and end its vaccine-certificate system within a few weeks, Doug Ford said he’s eager to “get these mandates moving.”
“I hate as a government telling anyone what to do. We’ve just got to get moving forward and get out of this and protect the jobs,” Mr. Ford said at a manufacturing announcement in Hamilton.
“The world’s done with it, so let’s just move forward.”
The government intends to fully lift capacity limits on businesses and social gatherings on March 1. Its vaccine-certificate policy – which requires that certain businesses only admit vaccinated patrons – is set to end the same day.
Mr. Ford said Tuesday that he was “never sold” on the proof-of-vaccination policy, but that he introduced it on the advice of the province’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Kieran Moore.
“Dr. Moore’s phenomenal, but you know something he’s reasonable, too. He’s reasonable, he gets it, he understands the economy,” Mr. Ford said.
“Thank God, on March 1, we’re moving forward out of this … I just can’t wait.”
Dr. Moore has said that masks should be required in Ontario for a bit longer. The province has not yet set a date to end its mask mandate covering public spaces, but Mr. Ford indicated on Tuesday that he wants to end that policy as well, saying that people want to “get back to normal” without such rules.
Dr. Moore and Mr. Ford have both pointed to improving virus indicators such as dropping hospitalizations and intensive care admissions as the rationale behind lifting more public-health rules.
Those trends continued on Tuesday, with 1,550 people hospitalized with the virus and 384 people in intensive care – down from 2,254 hospitalizations and 446 intensive care patients one week ago.
The exact picture of COVID-19 spread in Ontario remains unclear, however, after the province limited access to PCR tests when the Omicron wave of infections overwhelmed resources.
Ontario is the latest province to accelerate its plans to end public-health rules such as proof-of-vaccination policies in businesses. Others including Alberta and Saskatchewan are moving even faster to end their own policies – a domino effect that began not long after protests against vaccination rules and government shutdowns started disrupting cities and border points across the country.
Mr. Ford has denied that the decision to roll back public-health measures was influenced by pressure from protesters who have occupied the city of Ottawa and key border crossings with the United States demanding that Canada do just that.
He again on Tuesday mentioned the divisions that have arisen between friends and family members over pandemic responses, noting that he has personally dealt with such issues. Mr. Ford’s daughter is a vocal opponent of vaccine mandates, while Mr. Ford himself has received three shots.
He said on Tuesday that people have the choice not to get vaccinated and pointed out that people can still be infected with the virus if they are vaccinated, although they are better protected against severe illness. Mr. Ford said people should remain cautious but move forward from restrictions.
“We just have to be careful [and] always make sure we wash our hands and move forward,” he said. “We can’t stay in this position forever. We’ve got to learn to live with this and get on with our lives.”
Meanwhile, Ontario is reporting 1,550 people in hospital with COVID-19 and 384 people in ICU.
That’s down from 2,254 hospitalizations and 446 intensive care patients one week ago.
There are 19 more COVID-19 deaths being reported today.
Ontario is reporting 1,593 new COVID-19 cases, though limits on access to tests means the number is likely higher.
About 37 per cent of long-term care homes in the province have active COVID-19 outbreaks.
Ontario isn’t reporting data on COVID-19 cases in schools, but five schools were closed for operational reasons and 206 schools are reporting student and staff absence rates of 30 per cent or higher.
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