Canada's Ontario to drop COVID curbs, including mask mandate
March 9 (Reuters) - Ontario, Canada's most populous province, said on Wednesday it would end masking requirements for most indoor spaces later this month, and scrap virtually all COVID-19-related public health measures by end-April, citing the reduced threat of the pandemic.
The province also said it would end strict inoculation rules on hospitals, colleges and universities next week. The broad mask mandate ends on March 21, though masks will still be required in healthcare settings and on public transit until April 27.
Federal vaccine mandates will continue to cover a number of businesses and sectors, and private sector employers can continue to have their own vaccine mandates.
The province, one of the worst hit during the peak of the Omicron wave earlier this year, started easing pandemic-related curbs from end of January, and has since dropped proof of vaccination requirement and social gathering limits.
"With the peak of Omicron behind us, Ontario has been able to cautiously and gradually move through its reopening milestones," Ontario Chief Medical Officer Kieran Moore said at a briefing.
"This necessitates a shift to a more balanced response to the pandemic, and changes are being made with respect to the province pandemic response to reflect a longer term approach," Moore said.
The province also loosened isolation rules for fully vaccinated and boosted household contacts of COVID-19 cases, but said all close contacts of positive cases should continue to wear masks in public for 10 days after exposure.
The provinces of Alberta and Quebec have also announced an easing of pandemic-related health restrictions.
Quebec, home to the city of Montreal, has dropped a requirement for proof of vaccine in public places and plans to fully remove its mask mandate in April. (Reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa and Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; Editing by Sandra Maler)