When the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors open their respective seasons later this month, they will play in front of a full-capacity crowd at Scotiabank Arena for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
The downtown gym and entertainment center is one of selected indoor and outdoor facilities in Ontario that will be allowed to operate at full capacity beginning Saturday, October 9 at 12:01 am.
The Ontario government announced Friday afternoon that it is “cautiously lifting” capacity restrictions in several settings requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination. They include spectator areas for sports and recreational facilities, cinemas, theaters, concert arenas, horse and car racing tracks, and film and television productions with studio audiences.
Meeting and event spaces will also be allowed to operate at 100%, but will still need to limit capacity to the number that can maintain physical distance.
The changes also apply to some outdoor settings that have a capacity of less than 20,000.
In a press release, Dr. Kieran Moore, Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario, said capacity limits in these settings are being removed because “public health and health care indicators continue to evolve in in the right direction, and we are able to lift further restrictions.
Despite stable COVID-19 indicators, Moore urged Ontarians to remain cautious, saying “now is not the time to let our guard down”.
“We must all continue to do our part and continue to strictly follow the measures that remain in place and vaccinate as many people as possible, especially as we enter the holiday season,” he said.
The province said masking, filtering and information gathering to support contact tracing will continue in these settings, while physical distancing will not be required, with a few exceptions.
The province added that there have been limited outbreaks associated with these parameters.
“As we continue to see more and more Ontarians rolling up their sleeves with more than 22 million doses administered, our government is cautiously lifting capacity limits in some contexts where we know the proof of immunizations provide an extra layer of protection for Ontarians, ”said Health Minister Christine. Elliott said in a statement.
“The fight against COVID-19 is not over and we must all remain vigilant by continuing to monitor the public health measures that we know to work and keep us safe and receive your first or second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine if you haven’t already done so. “
The announcement comes in the run-up to the 2021-2022 NBA and NHL seasons. Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment confirmed to CP24 that starting with the Leafs’ home opener on October 13 against the Montreal Canadiens, all of their events at Scotiabank Arena will be at full capacity.
Indoor sports venues in Ontario were previously only allowed a maximum of 10,000 people or 50% of their capacity, whichever is less.
In a statement, Michael Friisdahl, president and CEO of MLSE, said their organization was “delighted” with the announcement.
“We are grateful to all levels of government for their partnership in this process and we recognize that there will still be a lot of work to be done together to ensure the safest environment possible for each attendee of the event and our community. . Today, however, is an exciting day for our teams, our fans and our community and we look forward to a safe and enjoyable season, ”he said.
The Toronto Raptors’ home opener is on October 20 against the Washington Wizards.
The Ontario Hockey League, which began its season on Thursday, also welcomed the announcement.
“We are grateful for the continued work and leadership of our government and public health officials led by Premier Doug Ford, Sports Minister Lisa MacLeod and Chief Medical Officer Dr Kieran Moore,” said Commissioner of OHL, David Branch, in a statement.
“We are very happy to welcome back the OHL fans for what will certainly be a great season.
Cineplex said in a statement that they are reviewing the “exciting” announcement and what it would mean for moviegoers across the province.
“In the meantime, we will continue to focus on the health and safety of our employees and our guests. We are confident in our approach and track record in health and safety, noting that we have hosted millions of moviegoers during the pandemic, and we have not had any cases of transmission traced in any of our theaters, ”said Cineplex.
While players in the sports and entertainment industry are happy with the news, restaurant and bar owners are asking for answers as to why they were excluded from welcoming more customers.
Many had already expressed their frustration last month when the province approved increased capacity at these facilities.
Under step 3, restaurants and bars are allowed to have indoor and outdoor dining with capacity limits that allow physical distancing.
Celina Blanchard, owner of Lambretta Pizzeria, told CP24 on Friday afternoon that, like sports venues, restaurants require customers to provide proof of vaccination before they can dine inside.
“If everyone is vaccinated and we allow people to enter the restaurant with their proof of vaccine, then why aren’t we allowed to open it up to more people? I don’t understand that. It seems. be a double standard here, ”Blanchard said.
“Why do you treat restaurants any differently from sports venues? I just want an answer. I don’t understand the reason for this at all.”
Restaurants Canada said it was disappointed that the restaurant industry, which suffered the longest shutdowns and tightest restrictions, was excluded from Friday’s announcement.
“We have covered the expenses for PPE and safety protocols as well as the recent introduction of the vaccination passport system despite historic revenue losses. The industry has done everything that has been asked of us, and yet we continue to be distinguished, ”said Todd Barley, president and CEO of the organization, in a statement.
“Restaurants Canada calls on the government to immediately lift all additional restrictions on the industry and provide additional support to recognize the cost of implementing the passport vaccination program.”
Proof of vaccination required for weddings, funerals at meetings, event spaces
The Ontario government has also announced that proof of vaccination or medical exemption will be required to attend wedding events, funeral services that take place in a meeting or event space.
The province said proof of a negative antigen test would no longer be allowed as an alternative in these settings.
It comes into effect on October 13 at 12:01 a.m.