Life returns for public and private places in Belleville wary of the pandemic

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Belleville slowly returned to a semblance of normal life on Monday with the partial lifting of citywide restrictions by the Ontario government allowing fully vaccinated guests to return to public and private places.

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The temporary Stage 2 changes to the provincial COVID-19 route toward reopening were lifted at 12:01 a.m. Monday.

The cautious return to social gatherings and retail activity marks the end of the modified 21-day lockdown put into effect on January 5 to counter a substantial increase in Omicron cases across the province.

If Omicron cases continue to decline, the province plans to further lift the measures on Feb. 21, allowing 100% full capacity in indoor settings, including restaurants.

Belleville Mayor Mitch Panciuk welcomed Monday’s resumption of more regular activities to reopen public facilities in the city such as City Hall, Glanmore House and the Quinte Sports & Wellness Center.

Additionally, private venues ranging from gyms, theaters and restaurants to bars and the Shorelines Casino Belleville have reopened with 50% capacity.

Panciuk asked townspeople to be patient as staff ramp up operations.

“First of all, I remind everyone to be patient and have compassion. Many of the businesses and services that are coming back online haven’t been in a while and will need a some time to pick up the pace of things,” Panciuk said in an interview.

“We appreciate that everyone is anxious and wants to go back but you know it’s going to take a bit of time, it’s not the employees working in those areas, it’s not their fault. A little love and compassion goes a long way.

He reminded residents that all COVID-19 safety protocols remain in place, such as wearing a face covering and showing proof of vaccination must be followed in order to access places such as the city ​​facilities.

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“Proof of vaccination is required in all buildings in the city,” the mayor said, adding that screening was in place at entrances to ensure public safety.

Panciuk said city residents seeking city hall services should make an appointment.

The Quinte Sports and Wellness Center also reopened on Monday as staff prepare to resume operations and reservations for ice skates, swimming pools, the walking track and the partial reopening of the gymnasium.

“The ice rental has resumed operations today and we were able to move the vaccination center from the old family dental center arena into the gymnasium which means we have ice ready to go today, so we went back to four blocks of ice,” he said.

With only two vaccination days scheduled each week, the gym will be free for bookings for the rest of the week.

Pool facilities are open again and Aquafit programming is expected to resume Feb. 7, the mayor said.

Other city facilities such as the Belleville Public Library (which has remained open for the past three weeks) as well as the Glanmore House National Historic Site are open to the public.

The Ontario government, meanwhile, said the latest restrictions have reduced transmission of Omicron to the point that officials can partially reopen the province.

“On January 5, 2022, additional public health measures were put in place to mitigate transmission of the Omicron variant and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed. As a result of these temporary measures, we are beginning to see signs of stabilization in key public health and health system indicators. Over the next few days and weeks, we expect these trends to continue, allowing us to begin to cautiously ease public health measures,” the government said in a press release.

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“In the absence of concerning trends in public health and health care indicators, Ontario will follow a cautious and phased approach to lifting public health measures, with 21 days between each step,” the province said.

According to the Ministry of Health, the following measures came into force on Monday:

  • increased social gathering limits to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors
  • increased capacity at public events held to 25 people indoors
  • increase or maintain capacity limits at 50% in most indoor public places, including but not limited to:
  • restaurants, bars, other eating establishments without dance facilities and strip clubs
  • non-spectacle areas of facilities used for athletic and recreational fitness activities (such as gymnasiums and businesses offering personal fitness training)
  • cinemas
  • meeting and event spaces
  • museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos, science centers, monuments, historic sites, botanical gardens and similar attractions
  • casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments
  • allow indoor spectator areas of facilities used for sporting and recreational fitness activities (such as sporting events), concert halls and theaters to operate at 50% of usual seating capacity or 500 people, depending on the lowest value
  • proof of vaccination requirements would continue to apply in existing settings
  • singing and dancing in restaurants and bars and other selected venues will not be permitted, except for workers or performers
  • requiring that the number of patrons permitted to be seated at a table in bars and restaurants and meeting and event spaces and other places where food or drink is sold or served, including nightclubs, restobars and strip clubs that serve food and drink are limited to 10 people and patrons must remain seated
  • banning catering services at indoor sporting events, concert halls, theaters and cinemas, bingo halls and other gaming establishments, as well as racetracks, motor racing tracks and other venues similar.
  • forcing customers to remain seated in concert halls, theaters and cinemas.

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