Ontario will embark on a three-step reopening strategy when the province’s stay-at-home order ends on June 2.
Premier Doug Ford unveiled the plan on Thursday that will see public health measures gradually lifted based on provincewide vaccination rates and improvements in key public health and health care indicators. He also confirmed plans to reopen golf and other recreational facilities in time for the May 24 long weekend.
The first stage, which is expected to begin June 14, will see outdoor activities resume with smaller crowds where the risk of transmission is low, including outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people and outdoor dining with up to four people per table. Non-essential retail operations will be allowed to open at 15 per cent capacity. This will happen when 60 per cent of adults in the province have been vaccinated with one dose.
Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said Thursday that 58 percent of adults have received at least one dose, meaning the province is on track to moved into the first step by the middle of next month.
The second stage will see a further expansion of outdoor activities with gatherings of up to 25 people, outdoor sports and leagues, as well as personal care services – such as barbershops and nail salons – where face coverings can be worn with capacity limits of 15 per cent. This stage won’t kick in until 70 per cent of adults are vaccinated with one dose or 20 per cent of the population has received two doses.
The third stage will include easing restrictions on indoor sports and recreational fitness, indoor dining, museums, art galleries and libraries, larger indoor religious services, and casinos and bingo halls, with capacity limits. This stage will require 70 to 80 per cent of adults to be vaccinated with at least one dose and 25 per cent vaccinated with two doses.
The province will remain in each step for 21 days “to evaluate any impacts on key public health and health system indicators.”
The province plans to reopen outdoor recreational amenities, with restrictions, starting Saturday. Golf courses, soccer and other sports fields, tennis and basketball courts, and skate parks will be limited to five people, including members of different households. However, no outdoor sports or recreational classes will be permitted at this time.
Once the stay-at-home orders end on June 2, the province says it will employ the emergency brake restrictions until it is ready to embark on the first stage during the week of June 14.
Ontario’s hospitals asked Ford for a staged and cautious reopening of the province to avoid a fourth wave of the virus.
In a letter to the premier, the Ontario Hospital Association said several factors should be considered in plans to ease restrictions.
The association said vaccination coverage and supply, disease incidence, and an understanding of infection sources are such factors.
The letter said the reopening plan should be evidence based and focused on limiting the spread of COVID-19.
“We are all looking forward to re-opening the province, but the speed and scope must be carefully considered,” the group said.
“Ontarians must have confidence that the goal is to avoid a fourth wave and the subsequent need to re-impose province-wide restrictions, above all else.”
It also said reopening plans must include equitable access for marginalized communities.
On Wednesday, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones hinted reopening by region would not be in the plan because people tend to region-hop to where things are open. She also hinted that outdoor activities would not open before long weekend.
Ontario’s Science Advisory Table has repeatedly called for allowing residents to gather outdoors, safely, saying activities like golf, tennis and beach volleyball are low risk.
Dr. Peter Juni said recently that in some cases if physical distancing cannot be maintained during the activity, people should wear masks.
Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report