Jan. 26 re-opening is not guaranteed for businesses in Mississauga, Brampton, Hamilton and Ontario

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Published January 13, 2022 at 7:06 pm

Ontario chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore said COVID-19 case counts never got back to a low level in Ontario this fall, and likely will not till springtime. (The Canadian Press)

The province’s top doctor says the restrictions that affect certain businesses in Mississauga, Brampton and all of Ontario are not sure to be lifted on Jan. 26.

During a news conference on Thursday, Dr. Kieran Moore, who is Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said the province will need to have “clarity” before it can ease restrictions. Amid alarming sparks in indicators such as hospitalizations and ICU admissions, the province ordered restaurants, bars and other food establishment to close indoor dining as of Jan. 5. Retail settings, shopping malls and personal care businesses had capacity limits reduced by 50 per cent, and cinemas, concert venues and theatres were also ordered closed.

It has been called a modified Step 2 in Ontario’s roadmap to reopening.

“Our public health measures have just been put in on the fifth (Jan. 5) — we should start to see that benefit of the sacrifices that Ontarians have made next week,” Moore said. “Early in the week, we should be able to get clarity on where we’re at.”

The Omicron variant of COVID-19 is more virulent than its predecessors. Transmission happens more rapidly, but there is not yet a fully formed scientific consensus on whether it is more lethal or potential than other variants.

(On Wednesday, Moore’s counterpart in Hamilton, Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, cautioned against cherry-picking comparisons from other nations’ general collective experience with Omicron. She noted that South Africa, for instance, has a “significantly younger” population than Canada, while adding that the United Kingdom and Denmark are examples of other northern nations that are struggling.)

Moore emphasized what his team, along with the Ontario Science Table, will look for before easing and lifting restrictions. They are trying to gauge when the number of patients being admitted to hospital and intensive care for COVID-19 has peaked or plateaued.

Ontario had 3,630 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Thursday (Jan. 13), with 500 people in intensive care and 275 on ventilations. That was an increase over last week, but the rate of increase appears to be levelling.

Meantime, business groups such as the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) and Mississauga Board of Trade are want the Ontario PC Party government to release some form of plan for re-opening.

“We implore the government to immediately clarify if Ontario will be moving out of Stage 2 of its Roadmap to Reopen plan so employers, workers and families can plan accordingly,” OCC president and CEO Rocco Rossi said in a statement. “To help reduce business uncertainty, we continue to call for transparency and visibility into the metrics guiding the imposition or removal of public health restrictions.

“Businesses, particularly small businesses, have suffered greatly over the last two years and continue to face unprecedented challenges amid a prolonged crisis. We ask the Government of Ontario to develop a clear and consistent long-term plan for managing the pandemic that ties restrictions to data-based metrics and provide employers with the necessary guidance around reopening when it is safe to do so.”

The province has said it will expand its Business Costs Rebate Program. Eligible businesses will receive rebate payments equivalent to 50 per cent of their energy costs and property taxes for the periods where capacity limits are in effect.

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