Speaking to reporters at Queen’s Park Tuesday, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that masking requirements will be eased “probably within the next few weeks.”
Elliott noted, as she and other government officials have said in the past, that the decision will be depending on advice from chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore.
“That’s something Dr. Moore always said would be the last thing to go,” Elliott said.
“He thinks that’s very important and so we are reviewing it to see when we will be able to lift the masking requirements. Some people will continue to wear masks, regardless, because they just feel safer that way.
“But I expect that will probably be within the next few weeks based on the scientific evidence that we get from Dr. Moore and his colleagues.”
Elliott said masking will likely be removed in both schools and the wider public at the same time. Moore said last week that he also expects masks to be removed in schools and public settings at the same time, while remaining in place for higher-risk settings, including hospitals and public transit.
On Monday, Premier Doug Ford said the province isn’t “far away” from lifting its mask mandate, hinting that it could be removed after March break.
Elliott said Tuesday she can’t give an “exact timetable.”
“That really depends on what Dr. Moore and his colleagues are seeing,” she said.
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Howarth was asked if she would feel comfortable with the mandate lifting in a few weeks.
She said it is vital that expert opinion and advice is relied on.
“I know people are exhausted. People are tired of masks. People are tired of mandates,” she said.
“But what we don’t want to see is a return of COVID-19 that’s going to create more chaos for Ontario.”
Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said he wants to see a “clear consensus based on the best information” about removing any further public health measures.
“We certainly shouldn’t let it rip the way that it feels to me like Doug Ford really wants to do,” Del Duca said.
“We should listen to the best medical advice that’s available. So yes, Dr. Moore. Other public health leaders. The science table.”
Like Horwath, Del Duca said he doesn’t want to see the province “forced backwards.”
“I mean, everybody is tired, everybody is exhausted dealing with COVID. To make some small steps forward, as important as that is, but have to go backwards, at this point, I think would be devastating for Ontarians,” he said.
“Listen to the best medical advice. Be thoughtful. Be careful. Be responsible. Communicate clearly.”
Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said he has been meeting with immunocompromised individuals who are concerned about lifting the masking requirements.
“When it comes to masks, we do not want to do that too early, primarily out of concern for people who are immunocompromised and deeply concerned about making sure their safety to participate in public events is protected as well,” he said.
Schreiner said he supports the easing of restrictions that took effect in the province Tuesday because many public health officials were calling for it.
As of Tuesday, the province’s proof of vaccination requirement needed to access certain settings has been removed, as have capacity limits.
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