Ontario has released its plan for Stage 3 of reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic, which includes the resumption of indoor dining at restaurants and bars, opening of gyms and a sharp increase in the limit on gathering sizes.
Much of Ontario is set to enter Stage 3 on Friday, with the exception of regions in the Greater Toronto Area, Hamilton, Niagara, Haldimand-Norfolk, Lambton and Windsor-Essex.
“We will keep working until every part of this province gets to Stage 3,” Premier Doug Ford said.
“We’re moving forward as a province, but we can’t stop. We won’t stop until we get every person in Ontario — until we get every worker in Ontario back to work and back on their feet. But today’s news is an important step forward.”
Ford said the government will provide an update every Monday on regional reopenings.
In Stage 3, gathering limits will increase to a maximum of 50 people when indoors and a maximum of 100 outdoors.
The government said individuals will still be required to maintain physical distancing with people from outside of their social circle, which remains at capped at 10 people.
The increase in the gathering limit applies only to regions entering Stage 3. This differs from when the province entered Stage 2 on June 12 and the limit increase applied to the entire province, even in areas that weren’t initially moving ahead with further reopening.
As part of Stage 3, indoor dining (except for buffet operations) will be permitted to resume at restaurants and bars. Gyms will be permitted to reopen with strict measures in place.
Gathering limits will apply to the gyms, people must maintain physical distancing and equipment must be cleaned between each user.
In restaurants and bars, a distance of two metres must be maintained between customers.
Attractions like galleries, zoos, museums, movie theatres and performing arts venues will be able to reopen — again, with public health measures in place. Convention centres, live shows and playgrounds will too be allowed to open.
Officials also announced that as of July 27, child-care centres across Ontario will be permitted to operate with cohorts of 15 children.
A document released by the government said all businesses and activities are able to reopen, except for the following:
- Amusement parks and water parks
- Buffet-style food services
- Dancing at restaurants and bars, other than by performers
- Overnight stays at camps for children
- Private karaoke rooms
- Prolonged or deliberate contact while playing sports
- Saunas, steam rooms, bathhouses and oxygen bars
- Table games at casinos
“We are only able to move the province into Stage 3 because of the considerable and ongoing efforts of all Ontarians to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said.
Elliott said all regions in the province will be able to enter Stage 3 if promising health trends continue.
“Once we take this important step forward, we expect the province will stay in Stage 3 for the foreseeable future.”
Officials said precautions must still be taken by Ontarians to ensure the easing of restrictions is successful, including practising physical distancing, frequent handwashing and working from home as much as possible.
All regions in the province can enter Stage 3 on Friday at 12:01 a.m., with the exception of the following:
- Peel Region
- York Region
- Durham Region
- Halton Region
- Niagara Region
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she wants to see the government help businesses with added costs as a result of public health requirements for supplies like personal protective equipment and plexiglass.
“The last thing this province needs is to take one step forward and two steps back,” she said in a statement.
“It’s the government’s job to prevent that.”