Posted on: February 15, 2022, 09:03h.
Last updated on: February 15, 2022, 10:43h.
Ontario casinos will soon be clear of nearly all government-imposed COVID-19 operating restrictions.
After roughly two years of limitations, the Ontario provincial government is lifting pandemic emergency mandates on a variety of businesses, including casinos. Effective 12:01 am Thursday, February 17, casinos in Ontario will be mostly cleared to return to their pre-pandemic operating environment.
We’re moving in this direction because it’s safe to do so,” said Ontario Premier Doug Ford. “Given how well Ontario has done in the omicron wave we are able to fast track our reopening plan.”
Ontario’s 28 casinos were forced to shutter in early January in response to the wildly contagious omicron COVID-19 variant. But as health officials confirmed that the coronavirus strain presents far less severe symptoms in most infected individuals, and hospitals were not being overrun with COVID patients, Ontario is swiftly removing restrictions.
Capacity Increases, Vax Mandates Lifting
When Ontario casinos were permitted to reopen on January 31, they were instructed to limit their indoor capacity to 50 percent of their fire code. On Thursday, that limitation will be lifted to allow casinos to return to 100 percent occupancy. Concert venues and movie theaters, as well as indoor sporting events, will continue to be limited to 50 percent.
Patrons seeking entry to a casino floor must present proof of vaccination through the end of the month. But Ford says effective March 1, that stipulation will also be withdrawn.
My friends, like all of you, I have waited a long time for this news.
Effective March 1st, we intend to eliminate capacity limits in all indoor public settings and lift proof of vaccination requirements for all settings.
Thank you to everyone who made this possible. pic.twitter.com/5YdaapBZhy
— Doug Ford (@fordnation) February 14, 2022
“I have said from the very beginning that the extraordinary measures we introduced during the pandemic would only be used for as long as they were absolutely necessary,” Ford explained of his decision to end most restrictions.
The premier said local governments have the authority to dictate their own ongoing pandemic stipulations, and the public must comply. Businesses can also continue to require proof of vaccination and/or limit capacity as they see fit.
Ontario is following a trend throughout North America in doing away with COVID-19-related mandates. The vast majority of US states have ended capacity limits and indoor face masks.
As for Ontario, face masks will continue to be required for all people inside public buildings. The provincial government says it will communicate a lifting of that order in due time.
Testing Mandate Remains for Now
Ontario’s casinos near the US border, including Caesars Windsor, Casino Niagara, and Fallsview Casino Resort, rely greatly on travelers from the country’s southern neighbor. The casinos are waiting patiently on the Canadian government to do away with mandatory pre-travel testing for US citizens.
Under the federal government’s present pandemic protocols, non-residents must test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of departure from their home country. Though no official word has come from Ottawa, officials close to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau say the testing requirement will likely be lifted by the end of the month.
“Our government is actively reviewing the measures in place at our borders, and we should be able to communicate changes on this next week,” Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos disclosed last Friday during a press meeting.