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Ford says he can't see mask mandates lifting anytime soon

BELLEVILLE, Ont. — Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he doesn't see the province's mask mandates ending anytime soon.

Ford was speaking with Belleville radio station CJBQ today and was asked about his recently announced plan to start easing COVID-19 restrictions.

The premier said he can't stand shutdowns and wants to get back to normal, but wants to do it properly and cautiously, which is why there will be at least 21 days between each reopening phase.

When asked if a mask mandate will be lifted, Ford said he couldn't say that it will be anytime soon.

He says it really protects people, though it won't be in place forever.

Businesses such as restaurants, gyms and cinemas are set to reopen Jan. 31 with capacity limits and Ford plans to lift nearly all such constraints by mid-March.

The restrictions were imposed earlier this month as cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 soared.

Ontario reported 4,008 people hospitalized with COVID-19 Tuesday and 626 people in intensive care units. That was up from 3,861 hospitalizations and 615 people in ICUs reported the previous day, but not all hospitals report weekend data.

Ontario also reported 64 new deaths Tuesday, including some that occurred earlier this month.

The province reported 3,424 new cases of COVID-19, but Public Health Ontario has said the actual number is higher because of changes to the province's testing policy.

There were 11 schools closed due to operational reasons, down from 16 the previous day.

Eighty-nine per cent of Ontarians aged five and older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 83 per cent have received two doses.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2022.

The Canadian Press