Effective Sunday, Dec. 19, indoor social gatherings in Ontario will be restricted to 10 people due to concerns around the rapidly spreading Omicron COVID-19 variant.
Indoor public settings will be limited to 50 per cent capacity, these spaces include:
Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments, and strip clubs
Gyms and personal physical fitness trainers
All retailers, including grocery stores and pharmacies
Personal care services
Indoor clubhouses at outdoor recreational amenities
Tour and guide services
Photography studios and services
Marinas and boating clubs
The capacity limit does not apply to weddings, funerals or a religious service, rite, or ceremony.
There will also be a 10 person limit per table at restaurants, bars, strip clubs, meeting and event spaces.
The provincial government is restricting the sale of alcohol after 10:00 p.m., prohibiting the consumption of alcohol after 11:00 p.m.
All bars and restaurants, meeting and event spaces, and strip clubs, must close at 11:00 p.m., with the exception of take-out and delivery service.
Food and drink service in settings like sporting event, concert venues, theatres, cinemas, casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments will be prohibited.
Outdoor gatherings will also be restricted to 25 people maximum.
"Nothing will stop the spread of Omicron, it’s just too transmissible," Ontario Premier Doug Ford said at a press conference on Friday. "What we can do, and what we’re doing, is slowing it as much as possible to allow more time for shots to get into arms."
"This variant is unlike anything we’ve seen and if we don’t take every single precaution we can, the modelling tells a scary story."
Ford stressed that the Omicron COVID-19 situation is "moving rapidly" and warned that the province could see additional changes to public health measures.
"There could be possible changes in another week," the premier said.
"Being up front with people, these numbers will accelerate. Everyone has a responsibility in Ontario to be cautious over the Christmas break there, don’t have a large number of people."
Can people in Ontario see family, friends for Christmas?
Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, stressed that these additional measures are need to "give us time" to administer more booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
"I know this is not the situation as of us wanted to be in, especially during the holiday season, but it’s clear Omicron will not take a holiday," he said.
When asked specially about Ontarians seeing an older individuals who have received three doses of COVID-19 vaccine for Christmas, Dr. Moore advises the public to "avoid social contact with anyone older," even if you have received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine.
"I think all of us have to learn from the last 20 months to best protect those that are older in our communities, I’m sorry to recommend that," he said.
"If you’re going to meet with them, do it outdoors, distanced, masked. If you’re going to go indoors I would prefer that you get your third dose. Interacting with anyone vulnerable over the holidays, I'm quite concerned with."
What does this mean for students, parents after the winter break from school?
While parents may be anxious to find out what the future holds for their school-aged children, Ontario's premier said it is too early to know.
"I know you’re concerned about your kids schools and what to expect after the new year," Ford said. "No decision has been made on what that looks like yet."
"We are simply not in the position to say, the situation is evolving too quickly to be able to know where we’ll be in early January."