Doug Ford hints at possible early Step 2 reopening, even by a ‘matter of days’

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Ford hints at possible early Step 2 reopening, even by a ‘matter of days’' COVID-19: Ford hints at possible early Step 2 reopening, even by a ‘matter of days’
WATCH ABOVE: Premier Doug Ford hints at possible early Step 2 reopening, even by a ‘matter of days,’ at an unrelated news conference on Wednesday – Jun 23, 2021

Premier Doug Ford says amid promising vaccination rates and improving health indicators it is looking like Ontario could move into Step 2 a bit earlier, even by a few days.

In terms of a reopening date, Ford hinted that it could be a “matter of days” earlier than is expected. Currently, Ontario is slated to move into the next stage on July 2.

He also said Health Minister Christine Elliott is working with Ontario’s chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams to confirm a date. Ford added he will be consulting with his cabinet and the health table and that an announcement will be coming “very shortly.”

“This is due to the vaccinations going extremely well and again our frontline health care workers they’ve done an incredible, incredible job and the people of Ontario going out and getting vaccinated,” Ford said.

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Read more: What you can do and when under Ontario’s new 3-phase COVID-19 reopening plan

When a CBC reporter asked Ford about a Step 2 reopening date of June 30, he did not deny it and instead said they will “get moving as soon as possible.”

The premier made the comments Wednesday at an unrelated news conference regarding the Scarborough subway expansion.

On Wednesday, health officials reported first dose coverage for adults aged 18 and older hit 76.5 per cent with 27.5 per cent second dose coverage for adults. Those figures are actually required for Step 3 of Ontario’s reopening plan, although other health indicators such as cases, hospitalizations and test positivity are also needed to move along the framework.

Cases have been on a steep decline since the third-wave peak in April that saw upwards of 4,000 cases a day to late May which hovered around 1,000 then to around or below 500 for most of June. Test positivity and hospitalizations have also declined significantly.

The province is currently in Step 1 of its three-part reopening plan. Step 1 began a few days early on June 11 at 12:01 a.m.

Officials previously said that moving to the next step required a minimum of 21 days, which is slated for July 2.

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Read more: Ontario reports 255 new COVID-19 cases, lowest daily count and test positivity since September

Wednesday also saw a new daily vaccination record of 227,318 shots in the last day.

More than 13 million total COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered so far in Ontario. There are more than 3.3 million people fully vaccinated with two doses.

A three-part plan revealed in late May indicated the province needed 70 per cent of all eligible Ontario residents to have their first COVID-19 vaccine dose and 20 per cent of residents will need to have two doses to move to Step 2. Ontario has already surpassed that.

Here are the highlights of what’s allowed under the Step 2:

– 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

Read more: Ontario adds 3 regions to list of COVID-19 Delta hot spots, accelerates 2nd dose vaccine bookings

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Click to play video: 'Premier Doug Ford muses about moving up Step 2 of COVID-19 reopening plan' Premier Doug Ford muses about moving up Step 2 of COVID-19 reopening plan
Premier Doug Ford muses about moving up Step 2 of COVID-19 reopening plan – Jun 17, 2021

For Step 3, it will be 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. Here more indoor activities will be allowed where masks can’t always be worn.

Here are the highlights of what’s allowed under Step 3:

– 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, Step 2 activities will be allowed to operate indoors

As of right now, in Step 1, here is what’s allowed:

– Outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people (a government spokesperson confirmed different households can mix)
– 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

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— With files from Nick Westoll

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