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Ontario lifting capacity limits on theatres, spectator sports venues Saturday

TORONTO — Cinemas, theatres, spectator sports venues and several other spaces in Ontario where proof of COVID-19 vaccination is required can open at full capacity this weekend.
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TORONTO — Cinemas, theatres, spectator sports venues and several other spaces in Ontario where proof of COVID-19 vaccination is required can open at full capacity this weekend.

The government said Friday the decision was based on high vaccination levels, stable public health indicators and the vaccine certificate requirements that took effect last month. 

"Our government is cautiously lifting capacity limits in select settings where we know proof of vaccination requirements are providing an added layer of protection to Ontarians," Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a statement in which she urged people to keep following public health orders and get vaccinated. 

Concert venues, meeting and event spaces, commercial film and television productions with studio audiences, outdoor spaces with a capacity lower than 20,000 people, horse racing and car racing tracks are also among the venues permitted to open to 100 per cent capacity as of 12:01 a.m. on Saturday. 

The province said there has been a "limited number of outbreaks" in those settings and other public health measures will remain in place.

Those measures include masks, screening and collection of contract tracing information. 

The province said two metres of physical distancing won't be required in places where capacity limits are lifting, with some exceptions. It said indoor meeting and event spaces still need to limit patrons to the number that they can maintain physical distance.

The CEO of the Canadian Live Music Association said she was "thrilled" with the government announcement.

"It is absolutely a move in the right direction and we're really excited to see it," Erin Benjamin said.  

"I'm excited for industry and not just the venues and the artists but all of the businesses that support that activity."

She said the group is advocating to have the same applied to other venues still subject to capacity limits.

A spokeswoman for Cineplex said the announcement was "welcome news" for the movie theatre chain.

"We’re reviewing today’s exciting announcement and what it will mean for movie-lovers in Ontario," Sarah Van Lange said in a statement. "In the meantime, we will continue to focus on the health and safety of our employees and guests."

Outdoor settings where normal maximum capacity is 20,000 people or more must ask people to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination. 

Capacity limits will remain in place for all other settings. The province said it's continuing to review those measures, which still apply to other settings asking for proof of vaccination like restaurants and gyms. 

Just under 87 per cent of eligible Ontarians had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and nearly 82 per cent have both doses.

Ontario reported 573 new COVID-19 cases and 10 new deaths on Friday. There were 154 people in intensive care units due to COVID-19, with 15 of them reported to be fully vaccinated.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 8, 2021.

- With files from David Friend.

Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press