World is 'done' with COVID and it's time to move on from restrictions, Ford says
Ontario reports 1,550 people hospitalized with COVID-19, 19 more deaths Tuesday
It's time to move on from public health restrictions aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19 because people are "done" with rules like vaccine certificates and masks, Ontario's premier said on Tuesday.
A day after his Progressive Conservative government announced plans to speed up its business reopening plan and end its vaccine certificate system within a few weeks, Doug Ford said he's eager to "get these mandates moving."
"I hate as a government telling anyone what to do. We've just got to get moving forward and get out of this and protect the jobs," Ford said at a manufacturing announcement in Hamilton, Ont.
"The world's done with it, so let's just move forward."
WATCH | Ford says it's 'time to move on':
The government intends to fully lift capacity limits on businesses and social gatherings on March 1. Its vaccine certificate policy — which requires that certain businesses only admit vaccinated patrons — is set to end the same day.
Ford said Tuesday that he was "never sold" on the proof-of-vaccination policy, but that he introduced it on the advice of the province's chief medical officer, Dr. Kieran Moore.
"Dr. Moore's phenomenal, but you know, something he's reasonable, too. He's reasonable, he gets it, he understands the economy," Ford said. "Thank God, on March 1, we're moving forward out of this ... I just can't wait."
Moore has said that masks should be required in Ontario for a bit longer. The province has not yet set a date to end its mask mandate covering public spaces, but Ford indicated on Tuesday that he wants to end that policy as well, saying that people want to "get back to normal" without such rules.
Moore and Ford have both pointed to improving virus indicators such as dropping hospitalizations and intensive care admissions as the rationale behind lifting more public health rules.
Meanwhile, Ontario reported 1,550 people hospitalized with COVID-19 on Tuesday, as the province prepares to further ease public health measures meant to curb the spread of the virus.
The number of hospitalizations is up from 1,369 the day before and down from 2,254 at the same time last week.
According to the Ministry of Health, 54 per cent of those people were admitted to the hospital specifically for COVID-19 treatment while 46 per cent were admitted for other reasons but have tested positive for the virus.
Of those, 384 people are in intensive care units. Nearly 80 per cent were admitted to intensive care specifically for the virus, while the rest were admitted for other reasons and tested positive.
The province is also reporting 19 new deaths, pushing its official death toll to 12,120.
About 37 per cent of long-term care homes in the province have active COVID-19 outbreaks, provincial data shows.
Ontario isn't reporting data on COVID-19 cases in schools, but five schools are closed for operational reasons and 206 schools are reporting student and staff absence rates of 30 per cent or higher.
On Monday, Ford announced the province is moving up the second phase of its COVID-19 reopening plan to by four days to Thursday as key health indicators continue to improve.
All capacity limits in restaurants, bars, cinemas and gyms will be lifted on that day, a move that was set to take effect on Feb. 21.
Ford also announced the government's plans to remove its proof of vaccination system on March 1.
The announcement was met with criticism by NDP leader Andrea Horwath who said ending vaccine certificates is "risky and scary."
Ford has denied that the decision to roll back public health measures was influenced by pressure from protesters who have occupied the city of Ottawa and key border crossings with the United States demanding that Canada do just that.
On Tuesday, he again mentioned the divisions that have arisen between friends and family members over pandemic responses, noting that he has personally dealt with such issues. Ford's daughter is a vocal opponent of vaccine mandates, while Ford himself has received three shots.
He said on Tuesday that people have the choice not to get vaccinated and pointed out that people can still be infected with the virus if they are vaccinated, although they are better protected against severe illness. Ford said people should remain cautious but move forward from restrictions.
"We can't stay in this position forever," he said. "We've got to learn to live with this and get on with our lives."
With files from CBC News