In a widely anticipated move, Premier Doug Ford is scrapping the vaccine “passport” program that has been in place in Ontario for the last several months.
“The extraordinary measures that we introduced during this pandemic were always intended as a last resort. I stood at this very podium and promised you that these tools would only be used for as long as they were absolutely necessary and not one day longer. The removal of these measures has always been our objective,” announced Ford.
Government officials state that as “public health indicators” improve, and as other jurisdictions around Canada and the world move in similar directions, it makes sense to accelerate steps to lift restrictions.
For instance, this Thursday, “social gathering limits” mandated by the Ontario government will increase to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors. Further, all capacity limits will be eliminated in restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theatres and other similar locations. Capacity limits will be extended in grocery stories, pharmacies and retail stores. On March 1, all remaining capacity limits will be lifted in remaining indoor public settings, along with the removal of the vaccine passport.
For employers, this means the return to normal is fast approaching in Ontario. It is assumed that private employers will have their own set of rules depending on their circumstances, but it may be a good idea to scrap any programs in place for mandatory testing of employees, or the need for employees to be vaccinated as a condition of employment. Further, when the mask mandate is lifted, it would be prudent to make masking optional at your place of business. You will still need to follow all OHSA related guidelines, and differing rules may be in place for differing circumstances, such as if you’re contracted to work at long term care homes or in medical settings. This is a rapidly changing situation, and we will update you with guidance as we receive more information.
Written by Jeremy Power, a lawyer in our Toronto office