The province says “nearly all businesses and public spaces” in Ontario will be permitted to reopen when it shifts to Stage 3 of its COVID-19 comeback plan at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, but hotspots including Toronto will remain in Stage 2 for the time-being.
“Today’s news is an important step forward,” Premier Doug Ford said at a news conference. “It’s an important step in getting life back to normal.”
Ford said the arrival of Stage 3 means most businesses will be allowed to resume operations at levels not seen since before the pandemic prompted wide-spread shutdowns in mid-March.
Restaurants, for instance, will be permitted to resume indoor service as long as tables are spaced two-metres apart to encourage physical distancing. Bars and night clubs will be allowed to serve food and host live entertainment, but dancing will not be allowed indoors.
Fitness facilities, movie theatres, casinos, performance venues and conference centres are among the businesses given the green light to reopen with public health measures in place.
Personal care services, which largely resumed under Stage 2 last month, can expand to include facial contact — though saunas and steam rooms are still banned under the new rules.
Currently, the province is in ‘Phase 2 – Restart’ recovery mode that consists of stages 1-3. The final level is ‘Phase 3 – Recover.’
Loosened Stage 3 restrictions will see gathering limits increased to a maximum of 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors. People at places of work do not count towards the gathering limits.
Physical distancing rules will still apply.
“Stage 3 does not mean that the fight against this deadly virus is over — far from it,” the province said in a release.
“Everyone must continue to be vigilant and follow public health advice and workplace safety guidelines. This will help limit outbreaks and reduce the risk of undoing the significant progress we have made together over the past several months.”
The following businesses and activities have been deemed too risky to reopen in Stage 3.
- Amusement parks and water parks
- Buffet-style food services
- Dancing at restaurants and bars, other than by performers hired by the establishment following specific requirements
- Overnight stays at camps for children
- Private karaoke rooms
- Prolonged or deliberate contact while playing sports
- Saunas, steam rooms, bath houses and oxygen bars
- Table games at casinos and gaming establishments.
All regions will be able to move into Stage 3, except the following which will remain in Stage 2, giving the province additional time to “assess and monitor any impacts and readiness to move into Stage 3:”
- Durham Region Health Department
- Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
- Halton Region Public Health
- Hamilton Public Health Services
- Lambton Public Health
- Niagara Region Public Health
- Peel Public Health
- Toronto Public Health
Ontario entered Stage 1 back on May 19 which included the resumption of some surgeries, lifting restrictions on retail stores with a street entrance, golf courses, marinas, pet grooming and veterinary appointments as well as construction.
The province took a staggered approach to Stage 2 on June 19 with all regions of Ontario allowed to reopen more of their economies except for Toronto, Peel and Windsor-Essex. That stage saw social gatherings increase from five to 10 people as well as allowing businesses like bars, restaurants, barbershops and shopping malls to reopen with proper physical distancing measures in place.
Toronto, Peel Region and most of Windsor-Essex were given the green light to enter Stage 2 less than a week later on June 24 while the two remaining towns of Kingsville and Leamington were allowed to join the rest of the province’s reopening plan on July 7.
Watch the premier’s full announcement below.