Ontario eases some pandemic restrictions for bars and restaurants to boost economy

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TORONTO — Starting today, restaurants in Toronto and Peel Region can offer customers outdoor dining.

Premier Doug Ford announced Friday that the province is loosening some COVID-19 restrictions to support economic recovery.

While Toronto and Peel will remain in the strictest “grey lockdown” category of Ontario’s colour-coded pandemic framework, restaurants in the two regions are being allowed to offer services outdoors.

In addition, food and drink establishments in regions in the second-strictest “red” category can increase capacity to 50 people indoors, up from the previous limit of 10. And establishments in “orange” zones can now have 100 people indoors, up from 50.

The loosening of restrictions comes with a caution from Dr. David Williams, the province’s chief medical officer of health, who notes that Ontario has entered a third wave of infections with more contagious variants spreading. He says people must remain vigilant and continue to practice protocols such as mask wearing, hand washing and physical distancing.

Ontario reported 1,745 new COVID-19 cases on Friday and 10 more related deaths. And more contagious variants linked to severe waves of infection around the world now make up about 40 per cent of cases in the province.

Ontario is responding by expanding its COVID-19 immunization campaign next week to include residents aged 75 and older.

It will also allow certain pharmacies and family doctors in select regions to give the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot to residents aged 60 and older as of Monday.

Eligible residents can contact a pharmacy directly to make an appointment. Participating pharmacies are currently located in the Toronto, Kingston and Windsor health units but Ford said the project will be expanding “across the province.”