Ontario, Quebec begin easing COVID-19 restrictions

A server at Rol San brings food to customers after indoor dining restaurants, gyms and cinemas re-open under Phase 3 rules from coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions in Toronto, Ontario, Canada July 31, 2020.  REUTERS/Carlos Osorio
Ontario and Quebec are reopening indoor dining with capacity limits and restrictions. (REUTERS/Carlos Osorio)

Ontario and Quebec began easing COVID-19 restrictions on Monday, allowing restaurants to reopen their doors to customers for the first time in weeks.

The gradual reopening in Canada's most populous provinces comes as hospitalizations related to COVID-19 continue to decrease in both Ontario and Quebec.

In Ontario, businesses including restaurants, bars, retailers, gym and recreation facilities, cinemas, and meeting and event spaces will be able to operate at a 50 per cent capacity limit as of Monday. Social gathering limits have also been increased to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors. Sporting events, concert venues and theatres can now operate at 50 per cent capacity, or to a maximum of 500 people, whichever is fewer. The measures will be in place for at least 21 days before the province advances to the next step of reopening.

In Quebec, restaurants will be able to offer indoor dining at a 50 per cent capacity limit, with no more than four people or two households at a table. The province is also allowing private indoor gatherings of up to four people, or two households. The next phase of Quebec's reopening plan is scheduled for Feb. 7, and will include an easing of capacity limits on places of worship, entertainment and sports venues.

Each province re-introduced sweeping COVID-19 restrictions in the wake of the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.

Many groups representing Canadian businesses, including the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, have urged provinces operating with COVID-19 restrictions to provide struggling companies with targeted financial support.

According to the CFIB, Canadian businesses have taken on an average of $170,000 in debt through the pandemic. The lobby group estimates that one in six small businesses will not survive the latest round of restrictions.

While Ontario and Quebec begin allowing some businesses to reopen, other regions of the country are reopening schools to in-person learning. New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island each reopened schools to in-person learning on Monday, with added safety measures in place.

With files from the Canadian Press

Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.

Download the Yahoo Finance app, available for Apple and Android.