The Premier of the Canadian city of Ontario, Doug Ford, announced the progressive end of the restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic, starting with the elimination of the vaccine passport system, one of the main flags of the Freedom Convoy.
“The extraordinary measures that we introduced during this pandemic were always intended as a last resort,” Ford said. “I stood at this very podium and promised you that these tools would only be used for as long as they were absolutely necessary and not one day longer. The removal of these measures has always been our objective.”
Ford said that since January “key indicators” have consistently improved and the number of hospitalizations during the Omicron wave has decreased from 4,000 to 1,500.
The local governor said that, after consultation with Chief Health Officer Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario is “moving quickly” to the ideal conditions to safely lift all restrictions. After the passage of two weeks, the measures will be reviewed and revised if necessary.
A plan to reopen Ontario
Starting Thursday, February 17, Ontario will remove all indoor capacity limitations, with the exception of sporting events, concerts, and theaters, which will remain operating at 50%.
The measures also expand the limit on the number of people allowed at gatherings to 25 people indoors and 100 people outdoors. Organized public events will have a capacity of 50 people in enclosed spaces and no limit in open spaces.
Effective March 1, all capacity limits in enclosed public spaces will be eliminated. Also, on Dr. Moore’s recommendation, vaccine testing requirements will be lifted in all establishments.
However, Ford announced that the use of facemasks will be maintained “for a little while longer” as a method of preventing a possible new wave of the virus.
Although the Freedom Convoy protests that have taken over Ottawa for more than two weeks now have kept Canada in the news, and even inspired similar peaceful movements against restrictions on freedom in the United States, Europe, and Australia, Ford said the decision to reopen Ontario has nothing to do with the protesters.
“Today’s announcement is not because of what’s happening in Ottawa or Windsor, but despite it. On Friday morning, I made the difficult decision to declare a state of emergency in Ontario. The police now have every single tool they need, they have every resource available to them, and we’ve made progress since speaking with you last time,” he said.
Ford used his speech to threaten “serious consequences” to protesters who remain “for this lawless activity,” and accused them of “are holding millions of jobs and people” hostage.