The provincial government released its latest road map out of the pandemic and its related restrictions late last week. This plan provides some relief for businesses that still have restricted occupancy, and a time line for when more public health measures may be lifted.
Restaurants, event centres, and bars are among the hardest hit businesses in the COVID-19 pandemic. Premier Ford’s plan issued October 22 allows those businesses to return to near full-capacity as long as the patrons are fully vaccinated. Good news for those businesses, but a measure that should have been implemented sooner.
More than 77 per cent of Ontarians have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 73 per cent two doses. Enhanced vaccination certificates or passports have been in use for more than a month. It is unfair that large sporting venues and concerts are able to host at near 100 per cent capacity, while small town restaurants are limited. Allowing this further reopening measure is appropriate and about time.
But the road map put forward by Ford has some public health measures ending after Christmas, and all measures dropped by March. That is overly optimistic.
To Ford’s point, he can slow the pace of removing restrictions. He has shown before that the brakes can be put back on if infection numbers increase again. Still, removing all restrictions by March is a stretch.
Vaccines for children age 5-to-11 years old are not yet approved by Health Canada. Once that age group is approved, there are still those from six months to four years old unprotected. Each time there is a new group of people eligible for vaccination, there has been a correlating mutation in COVID-19, and a spike in new infections. Many public health experts and scientists have said that the six month timetable is ambitious.
Across much of North America, there are still widespread COVID-19 waves. Alberta, Saskatchewan, and pockets of British Columbia are hot-spots of infection. These areas removed restrictions too soon, and have seen ICUs overrun and their health care systems in crisis again. Is six months too soon for the removal of all COVID-related measures in Ontario? Yes.
This fourth wave in Ontario is slowly ebbing because of the cautious approach and retention of public health measures like masking and physical distancing. Proceeding with caution, especially with the holiday season and winter around the corner, is the best action. Stay the course.