Premier Doug Ford, Health Minister Christine Elliott and Ontario’s chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams revealed the long-awaited blueprint at Queen’s Park Thursday afternoon.
“We’ve been through so much in the past 15 months … We’re in a better place right now and that’s a result of your commitment of keeping each other safe and getting vaccinated,” Ford told reporters Thursday afternoon.
“Please keep following the guidelines closely, stay vigilant, stay safe.”
Before the first phase begins, the Ontario government will permit outdoor recreational amenities (restrictions will be in place) to reopen as of 12:01 a.m. on Saturday.
Phase one will begin as soon as 60 per cent of all eligible Ontario residents have received their first of two COVID-19 vaccine doses, which is estimated to begin around June 14 based on trends seen in mid-May. This phase is primarily focused on resuming outdoor activities where there are small crowds.
Here are the highlights of what’s allowed under the first phase:
– Outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people
– Patios with up to four people at each table
– Retail will begin reopening with a 15-per-cent cap for non-essential businesses, 25 per cent for essential retail
– Outdoor religious ceremonies and rite with capacity limits and two-metre physical distancing requirements
– Outdoor sports and training for up to 10 people allowed
– Day camps, campgrounds, Ontario Parks, horse racing, speedways, outdoor pools, zoos, splash pads allowed
A minimum of three weeks will need to pass and 70 per cent of all eligible Ontario residents will need to have their first COVID-19 vaccine dose and 20 per cent of residents will need to have the required two doses. At that point, here’s what else will be allowed:
– Outdoor gatherings for up to 25 people, indoor gatherings for up to 5 people
– Outdoor patio tables will be able to have up to six people
– Non-essential retail capacity will be increased to 25 per cent
– Personal care settings with face masks worn at all times
– Outdoor meeting and event spaces, amusement parks, water parks, boat tours, county fairs, sports leagues and events, cinemas and arts venues will be allowed to reopen
After another three-week minimum period, along with up to 80 per cent of residents receiving their first vaccine dose and 25 per cent receiving their second dose, more indoor activities will be allowed where masks can’t always be worn. Here’s what can operate under phase three:
– Large indoor, outdoor gatherings and indoor dining
– Greater expansion of capacity for retail businesses
– Larger indoor religious services, rites and ceremonies
– Indoor meeting, event spaces
– Indoor sports, recreational facilities
– Indoor seated events, attractions, cultural amenities
– Casinos and bingo halls
– Other outdoor phase two activities will be allowed to operate indoors
At the end of each phase, health system indicators will be reviewed before moving to the next step.
The new guidelines were released a day after the Ontario Hospital Association wrote to Premier Doug Ford and pushed the government to ensure low-transmission environments (such as uncrowded parks, golf courses, playgrounds and tennis courts) are opened first, followed by crowded outdoor environments (patio dining) and uncrowded, well-ventilated indoor environments (such as retail), and ending with crowded indoor environments (such as restaurants and gyms).
“During the pandemic, our health care system, economy and citizens have suffered. At the [OHA], we remain very concerned about health system capacity, burnout and exhaustion among health care workers, and the growing backlog of postponed non-urgent surgeries and procedures,” board chair Sarah Downey and president and CEO Anthony Dale wrote.
“As the third wave slowly eases, we are all looking forward to re-opening the province, but the speed and scope must be carefully considered. As you said last week, we simply can’t rush to reopen. Ontarians must have confidence that the goal is to avoid a fourth wave and the subsequent need to reimpose provincewide restrictions, above all else.”
The association also pushed for maintaining current travel restrictions, setting vaccine targets for “specific, high-risk communities” and keeping a close eye on hospital and health system capacity (such as using indicators like a decline in total hospitalizations, deaths and new hospitalizations per 100,000 residents, ICU admissions etc.).
This is a developing story that will be updated throughout the afternoon.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.