-The Canadian province of Ontario said it will speed up its plan to remove proof-of-vaccination requirements and lift pandemic-related capacity limits for many businesses while the western province of Alberta ended its mask requirements for school children on Monday.
The moves, which the provinces’ premiers attributed to a waning Omicron wave, comes as protesters opposed to pandemic measures closed three border crossings with the United States and paralyzed parts of Ottawa for three weeks.
Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, said coronavirus infections peaked last month and new hospitalizations have been declining week over week, signalling that the worst of the Omicron variant-driven COVID-19 wave was over.
The province had eased some capacity limits on Jan. 31 and had previously planned to remove COVID-related curbs in gradual phases on Feb. 21 and March 14.
It will now lift the so-called vaccine passports system on March 1 and remove capacity limits, including on restaurants and bars, on Thursday. Businesses may still choose to continue to require such proof, the province said, and masks will continue to be required.
“Given how well Ontario has done in the Omicron wave we are able to fast-track our reopening plan,” Premier Doug Ford said.
The province will also start allowing sporting events and concert venues to fill 50% of seating capacity.
In Alberta, students will no be longer required to wear masks in schools as of Monday. Last week, the province also ended its vaccine passport system and removed some capacity limits for small venues.
“The threat of COVID-19 to public health no longer outweighs the hugely damaging impact of health restrictions on our society, on people’s mental health, on their emotional wellbeing, on our broader social health,” Premier Jason Kenney said on Feb. 8.
“So now is the time to begin learning to live with COVID.”