The Ontario government says Toronto and Peel Region can finally move into Stage 3 of the province’s reopening plan starting Friday, July 31, at 12:01 a.m.
In a press release issued Wednesday morning, government officials said the decision was based on positive local trends such as lower transmission of COVID-19, ongoing hospital capacity, public health capacity to conduct rapid case and contact management, and a significant increase in testing.
Toronto and Peel Region will join the 31 public health units in Ontario that entered Stage 3 on July 17 and 24.
Windsor-Essex, the final region in Ontario, will remain in Stage 2.
The Ontario government said it will continue to monitor local trends in the region and move it into the next stage “when it is safe to do so.”
“While more restaurants, theatres and businesses can hang up their Open for Business sign, we’re asking everyone to follow public health advice and act responsibly,” Premier Doug Ford said in a statement.
“We have made tremendous progress that allows us to return to something a little closer to our normal lives this summer, but we are not out of the woods yet. This virus is still among us and we have to be extra cautious to avoid sparking a surge or an outbreak. I strongly urge everyone to continue following public health protocols.”
As part of Stage 3, indoor dining (except for buffet operations) will be allowed to resume at restaurants and bars.
Gyms will be permitted to reopen with strict measures in place.
Attractions like galleries, zoos, museums, movie theatres and performing arts venues will be able to reopen with public health measures in place. Convention centres, live shows and playgrounds will also be allowed to open.
Gathering limits will increase to a maximum of 50 people when indoors and a maximum of 100 people outdoors.
The government said individuals will still be required to maintain physical distancing with people from outside of their social circle, which remains capped at 10 people.
Mayor John Tory reacted to the news that Toronto is now permitted to enter the next stage in the coming days.
“Now the hard work really begins,” Tory said “We’ve just got to stay vigilant and making sure we continue to follow the public health advice in light of the new freedoms granted by Stage 3 is going to be crucially important.”
“COVID-19 doesn’t go away just because we’re in Stage 3,” he added.
On Tuesday, Toronto Public Health reported only one confirmed case of the virus within a 24-hour period.
Meanwhile in Peel Region, Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said the premier made the “right call” when it comes to giving the green light for the region to move into Stage 3.
“We have seen single-digit case counts in Brampton for much of the last week,” Brown said. “It was only a month ago that we were seeing case counts close to 100 a day, and now we’re seeing case counts that are in single-digits.”
— With files from Global News’ Ryan Rocca.