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Ontario government set to unveil gradual COVID-19 reopening plan for province

WATCH ABOVE: Premier Doug Ford unveils Ontario's reopening plan

The Ontario government is set to unveil a gradual COVID-19 reopening plan after a weeks-long stay-at-home order was imposed on the entire province.

Premier Doug Ford and members of his cabinet scheduled a news conference at Queen’s Park for 3 p.m. on Thursday to unveil the plan.

As first reported by The Globe and Mail Wednesday evening and confirmed to Global News by a senior Ontario government source not authorized to speak publicly, the reopening could occur over a few months, with the first phase of the plan potentially beginning in days.

Read more: Ontario may not take regional approach to reopening, solicitor general says

Among the earliest items that could be allowed to go ahead are certain outdoor activities (golf and tennis were specifically cited) and small outdoor gatherings. Other outdoor activities in larger settings with greater numbers of attendees weren’t likely to be allowed for several more weeks.

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In a letter to Premier Doug Ford released by the Ontario Hospital Association Wednesday evening, the organization 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.

Read more: Ontario to resume non-urgent surgeries and procedures as COVID-19 numbers decline

“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.”

Click to play video: 'Ontario health minister lays out details of three-step reopening plan' Ontario health minister lays out details of three-step reopening plan
Ontario health minister lays out details of three-step reopening plan – May 20, 2021

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.).

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Earlier in the day, Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones suggested the government’s plan may not be specific to any one region.

Read more: Ontario won’t return to colour-coded COVID-19 framework, government says

The government recently confirmed that Ontario will not be returning to its colour-coded COVID-19 response framework, which placed regions in different categories of restrictions depending on local rates of COVID-19 transmission.

It was on April 8 when the government enacted the province’s third state of emergency and imposed a provincewide stay-at-home order in an effort to tackle soaring COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Global News will live stream the announcement as soon as the details are confirmed.

— With files from Ryan Rocca and Jason Chapman

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