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Ontario loosens LTC restrictions to allow for indoor events, gatherings

Last Updated May 4, 2021 at 5:13 pm EDT

John Welbers waves to his mother Elizabeth Jeppesen, 94, who tested positive for COVID-19, as she blows him a kiss from the window of her room at Tabor Home, a long-term care facility in Abbotsford, B.C., on Wednesday, November 18, 2020. Fraser Health declared an outbreak at the facility after more than 100 residents and staff tested positive for COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

TORONTO – Ontario says it is loosening pandemic restrictions placed on long-term care homes as vaccination rates rise.

The new rules will now mean homes can safely resume communal dining, indoor events and gatherings.

The directive also allows residents and their caregivers who are fully immunized to have physical contact, like hugging.

“Our government puts the safety and well-being of long-term care residents at the heart of everything we do,” said Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care.

“The high vaccination uptake in long-term care homes means we can take further steps towards bringing social interactions back – supporting the mental and emotional well-being of residents while protecting their physical well-being.”

The province says once the current stay-at-home order is lifted, it will issue further direction that allows social and temporary outings for fully vaccinated residents.

Fullerton faced tough questions and backlash following a scathing report by the long-term care commission that showed the Ford Government mismanaged the sector prior to and during the pandemic.

When asked directly whether or not her government would apologize, Fullerton said she takes responsibility.

“I look back and say why did it take so long, so many years went by without addressing long-term care when we knew there was an ageing population, and our government is addressing it. Our government is taking responsibility. It is our government that has a plan for this,” she said Monday.

“After so many years of neglect from previous governments, why didn’t they do anything. I can’t answer for that.”

Fullerton left hastily to head to question period with reporters still trying to ask questions.

On Tuesday, she didn’t make an appearance to answer questions.

“I will not be spoken to that way!” Minister Fullerton said following criticism from NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who continues to call for her resignation.

The government says all residents are currently allowed to leave a nursing home for medical or compassionate absences.

Last week, the province said approximately 94 percent of long-term care residents were fully vaccinated and 84 percent of staff had received at least their first dose of the COVID-19 shot.

Ontario’s Long-Term Care COVID-19 commission released their final report last week on how the province and the long-term care sector handled the pandemic.

The 322-page report says following the SARS epidemic of 2003, the province listened to reports calling for an overhaul to their pandemic preparedness plan.

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