Ontario to cut capacity limits, reduce gathering sizes in response to Omicron

Capacity limits, other restrictions for restaurants, bars, retail outlets coming into effect on Dec. 19

TORONTO ­– The province is implementing new capacity restrictions to several sectors in response to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in Ontario.

On Friday afternoon, Premier Doug Ford and Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, announced these restrictions in response to the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

“Sitting back, playing defence is not an option,” said Ford. “Nothing will stop the spread of Omicron; it is just too transmissible.”

Dr. Moore said as the Omicron variant becomes the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the province, it is necessary to apply additional public health measures.

“We all have a role to play in keeping ourselves, friends, families, neighbours and communities safe this holiday season. Please follow all public measures and get vaccinated with your first, second or booster dose if you have not done so already,” he said. “Omicron will not take a holiday.”

Beginning Sunday, Dec. 19, a 50 per cent capacity limit will apply to indoor public settings, such as:

  • restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments and strip clubs;
  • personal care services;
  • personal physical fitness trainers;
  • retailers (including grocery stores and pharmacies);
  • shopping malls;
  • non-spectator areas of facilities used for sports and recreational fitness activities (e.g. gyms);
  • indoor recreational amenities;
  • indoor clubhouses at outdoor recreational amenities;
  • tour and guide services;
  • photography studios and services; and
  • marinas and boating clubs.

These capacity limits will not apply to any portion of a business or place being used for a wedding, funeral or religious service.

In addition to the indoor capacity limits, the following restrictions will also be implemented:

  • maximum of 10 people at a table in a restaurant or meeting space;
  • patrons will be required to remain seated in restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments;
  • bars, restaurants and meeting and event spaces will be required to close by 11 p.m., except for take-out service.
  • no alcohol sales after 10 p.m.;
  • dancing will not be allowed, except for workers or performers;
  • no food or drink will be allowed at sporting events, concerts, theatres and cinemas, casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments, horse racing tracks or racing tracks; and
  • social gatherings limited to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.

“We need to do everything we can to slow its spread as we continue to dramatically ramp up capacity to get as many booster shots into arms as possible. Doing so is the best way to safeguard our hospital and intensive care units,” said Ford.

Earlier this week, Ontario’s Science Advisory Table released its latest modelling, which suggests that the increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant could put additional strain on the province’s hospital capacity.

“Without prompt intervention, ICU occupancy could reach unsustainable levels in early January,” the data says.

The Science Advisory Table suggested an “immediate circuit breaker” where Ontarians reduce their contacts by at least 50 per cent and booster shot campaigns ramp up to 250,000 shots per day.

Without any added restrictions, the data suggests case counts could exceed 10,000 per day by Christmas.

“Although vaccines are less effective against Omicron infection, boosters can substantially increase protection,” the modelling says. “Even two doses likely provide strong protection against severe illness. The risk of severe illness is dramatically higher in the unvaccinated.”