COVID-19 restrictions ease in Ottawa, eastern Ontario following shutdown

The stay-at-home order has been lifted in Ottawa as the region enters the "orange-restrict" category on the province's scale of pandemic restrictions. 

Here's what you need to know about how restrictions are changing

Erin Connolly wears a mask to protect them from COVID-19 while looking at clothes at Trailhead in Kingston, Ont. Feb. 10, 2021. Retail stores and other non-essential businesses can now welcome customers inside again across eastern Ontario. (Lars Hagberg/Canadian Press)

The stay-at-home order has been lifted in Ottawa as the region enters the "orange-restrict" category on the province's five-colour scale of pandemic restrictions. 

The change means non-essential businesses, including restaurants, gyms and salons, can open their doors and welcome customers inside, albeit with some restrictions.

Gathering limits have been eased and many sports can resume.

"What we're hearing is that we're happy to be back at work and we're certainly happy to open up our stores again," said Nathalie Carrier, executive director of the Vanier Business Improvement Area.

"The unfortunate thing is nobody knows for how long."

The Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) also moves to orange Tuesday, while the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit will join Belleville, Kingston and Renfrew County areas in the green zone, the lowest level on the scale.

Below is a non-comprehensive list of rules and restrictions that took effect as of Tuesday at 12:01 a.m. in Ottawa. For the full list of changes, visit the Ontario public health measures website

Gathering limits

People are still advised to limit close contact to only those they live with, stay home as much as possible and to stay at least two metres away from everyone else

Those who live alone can have close contact with people from one other household. 

Events and social gatherings at private homes, backyards or in public parks can have up to 10 people indoors or 25 people outdoors.

Up to 50 people can attend organized public events and gatherings indoors at staffed businesses, like meeting or event spaces, and up to 100 people can attend if the event's held outdoors.

Religious services, weddings and funerals can take place indoors at 30 per cent of the building's normal capacity, and outdoors with up to 100 people.

Restaurants and bars

Restaurants, bars and other establishments may open for indoor dining with capacity limits of 50 people and a maximum of four people per table.

Guests must wear masks or face coverings except when eating or drinking, and must provide contact information for contact tracing purposes. 

All restaurants and bars must stop selling alcohol by 9 p.m. and close by 10 p.m. Buffets are not allowed.

Restaurants and bars that have been closed to in-person dining since Dec. 26 can now reopen, subject to capacity limits, mask requirements and physical distancing rules. (Andrew Lee/CBC)

Malls and retail stores

Retail stores and malls may begin welcoming customers inside again. Both will need to screen customers for potential symptoms of COVID-19 and prepare a safety plan.

Customers must wear a mask or face covering, with some exceptions, and keep at least two metres apart from other people while shopping, lining up at the cash register or waiting outside.

Personal care services

Barber shops, hairdressers, nail salons and spas can all reopen, so long as guests wear masks or face coverings at all times.

The following facilities must stay closed:

  • Oxygen bars.
  • Steam rooms.
  • Saunas.
  • Sensory deprivation pods (except for therapeutic purposes).
  • Bath houses.
  • Other adult venues.
Personal care services, including hair dressers, barbershops and nail salons, can reopen again so long as customers can wear masks or face coverings at all times. (Andrew Lee/CBC)

Sports, gyms and recreational facilities

Outdoor ski, ice and snow recreational amenities can open for recreational purposes.

Gyms, sports facilities and recreational facilities can reopen with capacity limits — up to 50 people in areas with weights and exercise machines and a maximum of 10 people per class. Up to 25 people may attend outdoor facilities. 

Organized team and individual sports can resume only if they can be modified to avoid physical contact between players, with a maximum of 50 people per league. Spectators aren't allowed to attend games, except for one parent or guardian per child.

A 90-minute time limit will apply to all exercise classes and workouts, but not for sports.

There are some exemptions for high-performance athletes and parasports.

Skaters make their way along the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, Monday, Feb. 15, 2021, during the Family Day long weekend. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)


Movie theatres can reopen with capacity limits of 50 people indoors or 100 outdoors.

City of Ottawa services

The City of Ottawa will gradually reopen many of its services, with the following resuming today:

  • Public and lane swims at select pools.
  • Aquafitness programs.
  • Weight and cardio rooms.
  • Sport activities.
  • Older adult programming.

Reservations are required for most of the above activities.

People can also play outdoor sports like hockey on rinks where such activities are allowed. Limits of 25 skaters at larger outdoor rinks and 12 at smaller rinks remain in place.

Public skating at select indoor arenas will start on Saturday, Feb. 20.

Sledding hills are open with a maximum of 25 people allowed to gather at the top and bottom. Physical distancing of two metres must be maintained at all times.

In-person counter services at city hall and Ben Franklin Place will resume on Monday, Feb. 22, but people can start reserving appointments for that week starting Tuesday, Feb. 16.

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