Businesses ready to welcome more clients as COVID capacity limits lifted
Virologist urges caution about reopening too quickly
As the Ontario government removes more COVID-19 restrictions, businesses in Ottawa say they are ready to open their doors to more clients.
Monday marks the first day of the province's new reopening plan announced late last week. It lays out the anticipated gradual lifting of all public health measures, including masks, by the end of March. The first step removes capacity limits in the majority of establishments that require proof of vaccination, such as restaurants, bars and gyms.
"All around, we think this is really great news," said Nathalie Carrier, executive director of the Vanier BIA.
In the city's west end, Rod Castro has been making sure he has extra seating set up at his two establishments, Publico Eatery and 1014 Cocktail Bar. He's happy for the chance to welcome more customers, but doesn't expect to be full on day one.
"We really feel as if it might end up being anticlimactic. I really think that's a great thing because it means it's a comfortable transition," he said.
'Have some caution'
The Ford government has also proposed lifting proof of vaccination requirements for bars, restaurants and sports facilities by mid-January and removing mask requirements by the end of March, as long as COVID-19 cases stay low. That worries Castro.
"We're happy right now with [the requirements] because what we know now is that this will hopefully give people the confidence to go out," he said.
"With the vaccine passports, what we got is people that were literally scared to go in and dine since the start of all this actually, feeling that confidence. So yes, in January, if all of a sudden that vaccination requirement goes away, some of those people, I believe, might lose that confidence."
Some experts are also urging people to remember the virus has surprised the medical community in the past, and to be wary of reopening too fast, which has led to a dramatic rise in cases in other regions.
"We don't know if ... a new variant will come up from another country because many other countries have a very low rate of vaccination," said Dr. Hugues Loemba, a virologist and associate professor with the University of Ottawa's department of medicine. He said it's difficult to predict how long immunity from the vaccine will last, or if people will need booster shots.
"We need to be optimistic, but we have to have some caution here."
As for Carrier, she hopes people realize that, for now, it is safe and to have faith in the protocols currently in place.
"We hope that people will book their Christmas parties and come out with their friends to restaurants and start going to the gym again and really encourage their local businesses because it's safe to do so."