Ontario to Remove Public Mask Mandates March 21; Plans to Scrap Remaining Restrictions by End of April
Ontario's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore said removing mask mandates was part of a "more balanced response to the pandemic." Photo: svetikd/Getty Images
Ontario is planning to put an end to most public mask mandates as of March 21, with plans to scrap remaining COVID-19 restrictions by the end of April.
Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, said the province was moving forward with its reopening plan in response to key health indicators, including a stable COVID-19 test positivity rate, declining hospitalizations and high vaccination rates.
“We are now learning to live with and manage COVID-19 for the long term,” Moore said. “This necessitates a shift to a more balanced response to the pandemic.”
Under new rules, masks will no longer be required in most public settings, including restaurants, gyms, large event spaces and schools. However, mask mandates will remain in higher-risk settings, including public transit, long-term care and retirement homes and hospitals.
Moore said he would monitor the impact of the province’s reopening — which included the lifting of capacity limits and vaccine certificate programs on Tuesday — ahead of the March 21 deadline, stressing that Ontarians may need to resume mask wearing if the the situation changes.
“I do believe they are protective, they do decrease your personal risk,” Moore said.
“But as the chief medical officer of health, we can only mandate masking for so long. As long as the risk is decreasing, we’ll make a decision together as a province to remove them.”
Ahead of the announcement, Ford said mask wearing would soon become a personal choice.
“If you want to keep your mask on, keep it on. If you want to take it off, take it off,” he said Wednesday at a news conference in Brantford, Ont.
The province will also end immunization mandates in long-term care homes on March 14. Instead, the government will continue to provide them with rapid tests and let individual facilities determine their own protocol.