The Ontario government began easing mask-wearing requirements on March 21 and is looking forward to the final phase of its COVID-19 reopening.
But the plan is being implemented as the rate of infections is rising, with some medical experts saying the province has entered its sixth wave.
Proof of vaccination is no longer required at most restaurants and movie theatres. Capacity limits for sports and concert venues have been lifted. However, it remains mandatory in higher-risk areas, such as transit, long-term care, hospitals and jails.
“With the peak in Omicron cases behind us, Ontario has been able to cautiously and gradually move through its reopening milestones,” Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore stated in a government press release.
As part of the plan, all non-essential travellers who are fully vaccinated can travel without pre-entry COVID testing in the country.
But there are mixed feelings about the end of COVID-19 measures in Ontario, some of which are in support, and others said it’s too soon to drop restrictions.
Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, in a media conference, expressed some concern regarding the decision.
“People think, the decision taken is too soon,” Crombie said. “Frankly, I do too.”
“Right now hospitals are in a good place but we still need time to recover and ramp up to full surgical capacity,” she said.
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As the sixth wave is on its way, James Tiessen, a program director for the Master of Health Administration at X University, does not support the decision.
“The weather is unreasonably cold these days so they would have waited for a couple of weeks to make any decision,” Tiessen said.
He hoped the government would be prepared to manage the sixth outbreak of COVID-19 in the province just as the province is headed for a June election.
“The situation should get settled down till the elections,” he said.
Dr Glen Pyle, a senior professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Guelph, supports keeping masks on and maintaining physical distancing, two of the strongest measures available to prevent the spread of the virus.
“To minimize the increase in infections and hospitalizations that we are already beginning to see, we need to take these measures seriously,” Pyle said.
By lifting the measures there is an increase in the risk of overloading the healthcare system and disrupting schools and the workforce with higher absenteeism, he said.
“We may see the return of harsher restrictions that will ultimately damage society far more than keeping mask mandates in place now,” Pyle said.
He’s been limiting outdoor activities and taking necessary precautions for his health.
Toronto resident Jenna Raid, who is planning to travel to Europe, said she’s glad the mask restrictions were lifted.
“Exact after two years I can breathe in the fresh air in public. It is not just Ontario but other provinces and countries that made the same decision,” Raid said.