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On January 20, 2022 the Ontario government announced that the province will move to a modified Step 3 of the Roadmap to Reopen, pursuant to Ontario Regulation 25/22 Rules for Areas at Step 3 (the “Step 3 Regulation“).

The changes include:

  • Increasing social gathering limits to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.
  • Increasing or maintaining capacity limits at 50 per cent in indoor public settings, including but not limited to:
    • restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments without dance facilities;
    • retailers (including grocery stores and pharmacies) and shopping malls;
    • cinemas, meeting and event spaces;
    • non-spectator areas of sports and recreational fitness facilities, including gyms;
    • recreational amenities and amusement parks, including water parks;
    • museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos and similar attractions; and
    • casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments.
  • Allowing spectator areas of facilities such as sporting events, concert venues and theatres to operate at 50 per cent seated capacity or 500 people, whichever is less.
  • Limiting the number of patrons permitted to sit at a table in bars, restaurants, meeting and event spaces and other venues at which food or drink is sold or served, including nightclubs, restobars and strip clubs that serve food and drink to 10 people.
  • Requiring patrons to remain seated while eating or drinking at indoor restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments (with or without dance facilities), sporting events, concert venues, theatres and cinemas, casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments, horse racing tracks, car racing tracks and other similar venues.

Proof of vaccination and other requirements continue to apply in existing settings.

Effective February 21, 2022, the province expects to further lift restrictions, including:

  • Increasing social gathering limits to 25 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.
  • Increasing capacity at organized public events to 50 people indoors.
  • Lifting the 500-person limit on indoor spectator events, in spectator areas of facilities used for sports and recreational fitness activities (such as sporting events), concert venues, and theatres where proof of vaccination requirements are in effect, while requiring a capacity limit of 50 per cent of the usual seating capacity.
  • Removing capacity limits in indoor public settings where proof of vaccination is required, including but not limited to restaurants, indoor sports and recreational facilities, cinemas, meeting and event spaces as well as other settings that choose to opt-in to proof of vaccination requirements.
  • Limiting capacity in most remaining indoor public settings where proof of vaccination is not required to the number of people that can maintain two metres of physical distance, including personal care services, retailers (including grocery stores and pharmacies) and shopping malls.
  • Increasing indoor capacity limits to 25 per cent in the remaining higher-risk settings where proof of vaccination is required, including nightclubs, wedding receptions in meeting or event spaces where there is dancing.

The official announcement, along with an overview of the updated public health measures, can be found here. The modified regulation with the full list of Rules for Areas at Step 3 and at the Roadmap Exit Step can be found here.

Of note to Ontario employers with office workplaces is that the Step 3 Regulation removed the requirement that all employees to work from home if possible. While the Step 3 Regulation does not provide specific instructions regarding remote work, it includes a general compliance requirement that all business operate in accordance with Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (the “OHSA“). OHSA requires all employers to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of their workers and to keep their workers and workplaces free of hazards. If it is not possible to have employees safely work from the office, we recommend continuing to permit remote work arrangement, or hybrid models.

Employers should continue to ensure that their business is operating in compliance with the most updated advice, recommendations and instructions issued by public health officials. If you have any questions about what the current easing of restrictions might mean for your business, please contact our team.

Many thanks to Eleanor Dennis for her assistance with this article.