Ontario has unveiled its new plan to ‘return to normal’ and safely reopen the province during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The plan includes reopening certain outdoor amenities like golf and tennis as of Saturday, May 22, and up to 5 residents will be able to gather outdoors.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford says the province won’t risk reopening things too soon, and stressed the plan surrounds a three-step, phased-in approach.
Deputy Premier Christine Elliott detailed the plan following Ford’s comments, noting Ontario would remain in each step for at least three weeks, based on vaccine uptake and the province meeting key health indicators like daily case counts and the number of hospitalizations.
“The province will remain in each step for at least 21 days. This will allow us to evaluate any impacts to key indicators, and determine whether the province is ready to safely move to the next step in the plan,” explained Elliott.
The first phase of the plan would include 10-person outdoor gatherings, dining of four people per table outdoors, outdoor fitness classes with 10 people, the reopening of specific street-facing businesses in malls, retail limits at 15 percent capacity for non-essential businesses, speedways without spectators, outdoor horse riding, and the reopening of outdoor religious services, campsites, Ontario parks, pools, splash pads, fitness centres and zoos.
In step one, Ontario is aiming to hit 60 percent of adults vaccinated with one dose of the vaccine. This step is expected by the week of June 14.
The second step of the plan states outdoor gatherings would allow up to 25 people, indoor gatherings of 5 people, outdoor dining of 6 people per table, the reopening of outdoor event spaces, outdoor recreational sports and leagues would be allowed to resume play, non-essential retail spaces would have 25 percent capacity limits, essential retail with 50 percent capacity, speedways with capacity limits, outdoor cinemas, indoor religious services, fairs with capacity limits, outdoor waterparks and libraries and personal care services would reopen with limits and face coverings.
In step two, Ontario is aiming to hit 70 percent of adults vaccinated with one dose of the vaccine, and 20 percent with two doses. This step is expected by the week of July 5.
The third step would expand access to indoor settings with larger gatherings and in settings where face masks cannot be worn, which would include gyms, movie theatres, performing arts centres, casinos and bingo halls, museums and indoor dining.
In step three, Ontario is aiming to hit 70 to 80 percent of adults vaccinated with one dose of the vaccine, and 25 percent with two doses. This step would be expected by the week of July 26.
“It’s absolutely crucial to understand how this plan will work, and why we moved in this direction. The reality is, COVID-19 remains a significant threat to us. New variants continue to enter the province every day. But our vaccine roll-out is accelerating at an incredible pace,” says Ford.
Ford notes about 60 percent of eligible Ontario adults have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of May 20, and encourages everyone to book their shot as soon as they can.
“We’ve been through so much the past 15 months. It’s been the most trying time many of us can remember. We have all felt the impact of this pandemic. We’re in a better place right now, and that’s a result of your commitment to keeping each other safe and getting vaccinated. We can’t risk undoing the progress we have made. Too much has been lost to do that right now,” finished Ford.
As of June 2, Ontario's stay-at-home orders are set to expire, although, the provincial emergency brake and its restrictions will remain in effect. The provincial border restrictions at the Ontario-Manitoba border and the Ontario-Quebec border are currently set to remain until June 2.
“Due to Ontarians' continued dedication and adherence to the public health guidelines we are seeing positive projections and will be moving to open outdoor recreation as of this Saturday, raising the limit of outdoor gatherings to 5 people,” said Kenora-Rainy River MPP Greg Rickford.
“This is a positive step in the right direction and our Road to Reopening plan will give people and businesses some more certainty on when we can expect more restrictions to lift.”
Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms or who has been in contact with a positive case of the virus is asked to immediately self-isolate, get tested and remain in isolation until your test results are known.