Capacity limits to be lifted when Ontario exits Step 3, indoor mask mandate to stay: government

WATCH ABOVE: (July 28) Ontario students are still waiting for an official back-to-school plan as the return to the classroom is just weeks away.

The Ontario government says capacity limits will be among the public health measures that will be lifted when the province exits Step 3 of reopening, though a mask mandate will remain in place for indoor public settings amid concerns around the Delta COVID-19 variant.

“Only a small number of measures will remain in place, including the requirement for passive screening, such as posting a sign, and businesses requiring a safety plan,” Alexandra Hilkene, press secretary for Health Minister Christine Elliott, said in an email Friday.

A date for the province exiting Step 3 has not yet been revealed.

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“As the Delta variant is the dominant strain in Ontario, which is not the case with some other provinces, face coverings will also continue to be required for indoor public settings,” Hilkene added.

“This is consistent with other jurisdictions such as Quebec and Israel, and the CDC recently updated their recommendation that fully vaccinated people begin wearing masks indoors again in locations with high COVID-19 transmission rates.”

Hilkene said the need for the indoor mask mandate will continue to be evaluated “on an ongoing basis” by the chief medical officer of health.

This week, the province reached one of its requirements for exiting Step 3 after more than 80 per cent of all people aged 12-plus in the province received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The other requirements for exiting Step 3 are 75 per cent of the eligible population having received a second dose, and no public health unit having less than 70 per cent of their eligible population fully vaccinated.

Of those 12-plus in the province, 68.4 per cent are currently fully vaccinated.

Other health indicators “must also continue to remain stable,” Hilkene said.

There are exceptions in the regulations for the mask mandate, including for those engaging in fitness activities or consuming food or drinks. Those who take off their masks indoors must be two metres from others, or separated by a barrier.

The list of regulations that will come into force can be found here.

Ontario entered Step 3 of reopening on July 16 and will remain in Step 3 for at least a total of 21 days, Hilkene said.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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