Ontario residents will no longer be required to wear a mask in settings like schools, restaurants, gyms and theatres as of March 21.
The province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, announced Wednesday that Ontario will drop its mask mandate in most settings now that the peak of the omicron wave of COVID-19 is behind us and public health indicators continue to remain stable or are improving in most areas of the province.
“We are now learning to live with and manage COVID-19 for the long term,” he said. “This necessitates a shift to a more balanced response to the pandemic.”
Masks will still be required in certain settings, such as public transit, health care, long-term care homes and “high risk congregate settings.”
Moore also noted that removing the mask mandate “does not mean the risk is gone.”
“COVID transmission is still occurring across the province and masks can help protect you and others from becoming infected,” he said.
“However, thanks to our high vaccination rates and natural immunity that is developing, as well as the arrival of other therapeutics and antivirals, Ontario has the tools necessary to manage the impacts of this virus.”
Moore said that for those “most vulnerable to the virus,” it is still “strongly recommended that you continue to wear a mask.”
He also called on Ontarians to “please continue to respect the masking requirements that remain in place, such as federal requirements for returning international travellers.”
“As a society, I am asking that we remain kind, considerate and respectful towards those who continue to choose to wear a mask, and we should all be prepared that we may need to resume mask wearing if a new variant of concern emerges or potentially during the winter months when COVID and other respiratory viruses are likely to circulate again.”
The province lifted most capacity limits on indoor settings as of February 17 and proof of vaccination requirements on March 1.
New cases of COVID-19 have fallen to an average of 1,756 per day, down from a peak of 14,599 on January 5, and hospitalizations and patients in intensive care are also falling.
In a statement following his announcement, Dr. Moore said he wanted to thank Ontarians “for their ongoing resilience and commitment to community as we navigated this global pandemic together.”
“Your sacrifices and collective actions have made a difference.
“While this does not signal that COVID-19 has disappeared or that the pandemic is over, it does mean that we have come to a place where we know what we need to do to manage this virus and to keep each other safe.
“We need to remain vigilant. We need to stay home when sick. And, most importantly, we need to get vaccinated and boosted.
“Vaccination is the best protection against COVID-19 and the best protection for the progress we have made.”
- For more local news, pick up a copy of this week’s NRT. To get the NRT delivered directly to your mail box or inbox each week, subscribe here.