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Ontario cuts venue capacity to 50% for Leafs, Senators, Raptors amid COVID-19 surge

Ontario cuts venue capacity to 50% for Leafs, Senators, Raptors amid COVID-19 surge
Scotiabank Arena, shown July 10, 2018, is home to the NBA's Toronto Raptors and the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs. Capacity at the venue will be limited to 50% due to rising COVID-19 cases in Ontario. Photo courtesy of Paperfire/Wikimedia Commons

Dec. 15 (UPI) -- The Ontario government is reducing the capacity limits of large sports and entertainment venues to 50% in the province, a decision that will impact the NBA's Toronto Raptors and the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators.

Beginning Saturday, all venues in Ontario that hold 1,000 people or more will be restricted to 50% capacity. The measure was taken in response to the growing number of COVID-19 cases within the Canadian province.

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The Leafs, who are currently on a road trip in western Canada, play at Toronto's Scotiabank Arena, which they share with the Raptors.

The Senators, currently on an East Coast road trip, play their home games at Canadian Tire Centre in Kanata, Ontario.

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In a statement released Wednesday, Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment said it will "work to prioritize public health" in the wake of the new restrictions. Multiple Leafs games have already had more than 50% of tickets sold, creating issues for MLSE to work through.

"Our ticketing team is currently working through the logistics of implementing this change and will provide follow up details to all ticket holders within 24 hours," MLSE said in a news release.

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MLSE also announced it is launching an initiative called "Operation Mask Up (or out)" as part of the new enhanced protocols in Ontario. That program requires all attendees to comply with mask-wearing protocols or risk ejection from the building.

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Fans were already required to show proof of double vaccination -- or a negative COVID-19 test -- to enter the venue.

There were 1,808 new COVID-19 cases reported in Ontario and 2,386 in Quebec on Monday. Ontario Premier Doug Ford previously noted the omicron variant is on the verge of becoming the most dominant strain in the province.

Ontario is the first region to reinstate capacity restrictions in the NBA and NHL as the number of COVID-19 cases and game postponements increase.

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