The Ontario government has released several new COVID-19 public health measures that include bringing schools, closures and capacity limits for businesses online as the province struggles to contain the spread of Omicron.
Students and staff will not be returning to in-person learning this week. Schools will switch to distance learning starting Wednesday for at least two weeks.
“All state-funded and private schools will transition to distance learning from January 5 until at least January 17, subject to public health trends and operational considerations,” the government said.
However, school buildings will be open for child care operations, including emergency child care and for in-person instruction for students with special needs who cannot learn remotely.
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The move comes as Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr Kieran Moore, days earlier said on Thursday that students would return to class after the vacation. He gave a two-day extension for schools and parents to prepare.
But on Monday, Premier Doug Ford said students would not be in class and would start learning virtually in 2022.
Ford made the announcement alongside Moore, Health Minister Christine Elliott, Finance Minister Peter Bethlenflavy and Health Ontario CEO Matt Anderson.
Ontario Implements More Capacity Limits and Business Closures
Ford has also released several new measures and capacity limits for Ontario businesses, starting Wednesday, January 5 at 12:01 a.m. These measures will be in place for at least 21 days (until January 26):
There will be no more indoor meals in restaurants.
Restricted al fresco dining is permitted, as are take-out and drive-thru options.
The sale of alcohol will be restricted after 10 p.m. and consumption on site must end at 11 p.m. There are exceptions for delivery and take out.
Gyms are doomed to close. This includes all indoor sports and recreational facilities, except athletes training for the Olympic or Paralympic Games and other selected athletes.
All retail stores and public libraries will be capped at 50 percent of their capacity. Food courts in shopping centers will have to close.
Personal care services will be limited to 50 percent of their capacity.
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Indoor gatherings and public indoor events will be limited to five people. Outdoor gatherings will be limited to 10 people.
Indoor meeting and event spaces are closed “with a few exceptions,” but outdoor spaces are allowed to remain open with restrictions.
Indoor weddings, funerals and other religious services are capped at 50% of the hall capacity. Outside services are limited to the number of people who can maintain a physical distance of two meters.
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The province orders the closure of the following sites: concert halls, theaters, cinemas, museums, galleries, zoos, science centers, monuments, historic sites, botanical gardens and similar attractions, amusement parks and water parks, tour services and from guides and fairs, exhibitions, festivals, indoor horse racing tracks, car racing tracks and the like.
Whenever possible, employers should require employees to work from home, unless the nature of their work requires them to be on-site.
A full list of the new measures and restrictions is available here.
The province calls the new measures “time-bound” and “a modified second stage of the roadmap to reopening,” a similar model seen in spring / summer 2021 when Ontario exited wave three.
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Also effective Wednesday, January 5, the province restores that hospitals suspend all non-urgent and non-urgent surgeries and produce in order to preserve the health system.
The government said the directive is due to the highly infectious variant of Omicron that has infected Ontarians at a rate never seen before.
Ontario Health CEO Matt Anderson said a typical week would see about 8,000 to 10,000 of these surgeries being affected by this hiatus.
âWe’re going to be hit like a tsunami,â Ford said on Monday. “I also said prepare for the impact because some people don’t understand the volume that’s going to hit us.”
âEvidence tells us that approximately one percent of people who receive Omicron will end up in hospital,â Ford said. âOur public health experts tell us we could see hundreds of thousands of cases every day. One percent of hundreds of thousands is too many new patients for our hospitals to handle. “
Ontario reported 13,578 new cases on Monday with 16,714 on Sunday and a record 18,445 new cases on Saturday as the number of daily cases continues to soar to all-time highs.
Hospitalizations and those in intensive care units are increasing as cases increase. For example, a week ago general hospitalizations due to COVID-19 were 480 and reached 1,232 on Monday. Those with COVID in intensive care units were at 176 last Monday and are now at 248 on Monday.
The province said that with such a rapid increase in cases, hospitalizations would also increase rapidly.
“For example, 50,000 cases per day would mean 500 hospitalizations per day, which is higher than the peak daily hospitalizations of 265 per day since last spring, when hospitals were under significant pressure during the third wave of the pandemic. “the government said. .
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