High rates of vaccination, and declining numbers of COVID-19 cases in the province have lead the Ontario government to move up the start date of step one and cautiously start the re-opening phase of the province.

Earlier today the Ontario government announced that, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, they have moved up the start to date of step one of the Roadmap to Reopen, beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Friday June 11, 2021. The previous start date of Step One was set for the week of June 14, 2021.

Premier Doug Ford commented on the announcement, “Thanks to the ongoing success of Team Ontario’s vaccine rollout and the ongoing improvements in public health trends, we are able to enter step one of the Roadmap and begin to safely and cautiously lift restrictions.”

“The only reason we’re able to do so is because of the enormous sacrifices made by individuals, families and communities across Ontario. As we begin to enjoy the benefits of the first step in our roadmap like meeting friends on a patio or visiting your favourite local store, please do so safely by continuing to follow all public health guidelines,” added Ford.

To be able to begin step one safely, 60 per cent of of adults had to be vaccinated with at least one dose for two weeks or longer to ensure the first dose offers a strong level of protection against COVID-19.

As of June 6, 2021, 72 per cent of the Ontario population 18+ has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, with over 10 million doses now having been administered.

As well the province had to see continued improvement in key public health and health systems indicators. In the period of May 25 to 31, 2021, the provincial case rate decreased by 35.1 per cent. As of June 6, 2021, the number of COVID-19 ICU patients was 497, including 31 from Manitoba, as compared to 687 two weeks ago.

Christine Elliot Deputy Premier and Minister of Health adds, “While this is exciting news, as we move to enter step one of Ontario’s Roadmap it remains critical that all Ontarians continue to follow public health advice and roll up their sleeves to receive the vaccine.”

Ontario's reopening doesn't mean the Ontario/Manitoba border will reopen on Friday. That border will remain closed until at least June 16 but the closure could be extended by another 14-days.

Below is a list of what is included (but not limited to) Step One:

·Outdoor social gatherings and organized public events with up to 10 people;

·Outdoor religious services, rites, or ceremonies, including wedding services and funeral services, capped at the number of people that can maintain a physical distance of two metres;

·Indoor religious services, rites, or ceremonies, including wedding services and funeral services permitted at up to 15 per cent capacity of the particular room;

·Non-essential retail permitted at 15 per cent capacity, with no restrictions on the goods that can be sold;

·Essential and other select retail permitted at 25 per cent capacity, with no restrictions on the goods that can be sold;

·Outdoor dining with up to four people per table, with exceptions for larger households;

·Outdoor fitness classes, outdoor groups in personal training and outdoor individual/team sport training to be permitted with up to 10 people, among other restrictions;

·Day camps for children permitted to operate in a manner consistent with the safety guidelines for COVID-19 produced by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health;

·Overnight camping at campgrounds and campsites, including Ontario Parks, and short-term rentals;

·Concert venues, theatres and cinemas may open outdoors for the purpose of rehearsing or performing a recorded or broadcasted concert, artistic event, theatrical performance or other performance with no more than 10 performers, among other restrictions;

·Outdoor horse racing tracks and motor speedways permitted to operate without spectators; and

·Outdoor attractions such as zoos, landmarks, historic sites, botanical gardens with capacity and other restrictions.

The government is also allowing school boards for public and private elementary and schools to have brief outdoor end-of-year celebrations as long as the following requirements are met:

·Celebrations should be organized by class for elementary school and by homeroom or quadmestered class for secondary schools. A maximum of two guests per student can attend.

·All celebrations should take place outdoors – no indoor celebrations are permitted.

·Celebrations should only take place where physical distancing can be maintained.

·Gathering before and after the celebrations will not be permitted.

The province’s situation is currently exceeding the best-case scenario presented in recent modeling, which indicated the province would reach below 1,000 new daily infections by June 30, 2021.

Kenora Rainy-River MPP Greg Rickford was in a cabinet meeting earlier today discussing the possibility of an earlier start to step one.

Addressing the region, Rickford said, "With this June 11th re-opening news, I want to thank everyone across the northwest for their efforts in abiding by the guidelines and working so hard at getting our cases to a bare minimum across the region.”

“Special thanks to the Northwestern Health Unit and local pharmacies and all of the staff and volunteers involved in the distribution of vaccines throughout the Kenora and Rainy River Districts. This is the first step in getting our region back to normal just in time for summer.” Rickford adds.

The province will be in step one for at least 21 days to evaluate public health and health system indicators. To move beyond this current framework 70 per cent of adults have at least one dose and 20 per cent of adults have at least 2 doses. Once that marker is achieved the province will look to move into step two of the Roadmap.