Ontario imposes new limits, allows 4th dose for some as Omicron cases grow

Ontario is limiting concerts, theaters, and school sports and allowing some older residents to get a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine in response to the recent increase in the Omicron variant.

Effective immediately, residents of Ontario long-term care homes and retirement homes are allowed to get a fourth dose of vaccine as long as it’s been at least three months since their third dose. Workers in the facilities will be required to get a third dose by Jan. 28.

The province began a 50% capacity limit on retailers, restaurants, bars, and other venues less than two weeks ago. Beginning Friday, Dec. 31, Ontario will also limit theaters, concert venues, and sports venues to 50% capacity. No venue can have more than 1,000 spectators.

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Meanwhile, the resumption of school has been delayed by two days to Jan. 5 to allow schools time to implement new safety measures, including updated screening and reporting requirements. Schools will only be allowed to have low-contact indoor sports.

Ontario is also reducing the isolation period for vaccinated people with COVID-19 to five days. Publicly-funded PCR testing will be limited and the province will no longer require people who receive a positive result from a rapid antigen test to get a PCR or rapid molecular test.

Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, says their response needs to evolve as cases rise and evidence about the Omicron variant evolves.

"Focusing our testing and case and contact management on high-risk settings will help limit transmission, maintain critical workforces, and ensure timely access to PCR testing where it is needed the most. Anyone who is sick should protect their community by staying home," Moore said in a news release.

Starting Jan. 4, the province will require residents to use the enhanced COVID-19 vaccine certificate with QR code and the Verify Ontario app to enter locations where proof of vaccination is required.