The Ontario government says the province will move to the next step of the reopening plan on Wednesday, June 30 at 12:01 a.m., two days earlier than expected.
As a result of promising COVID-19 vaccination rates and improving health indicators, more measures will be relaxed and more businesses will be able to open in Step 2 of the plan.
Originally, the province was slated to move into Step 2 on July 2 after moving into Step 1 on June 11. Each step was supposed to see a minimum of 21 days in between.
However, Waterloo Region is currently the only region that will not move into the next step due to concerning COVID-19 case trends and the Delta variant. The region is looking at mid-July to enter Step 2.
Some businesses that will be permitted to open include personal care services such as hair and nail salons where face coverings can be worn at all times at 25 per cent capacity.
Outdoor dining will also expand from four to six people to a table.
Non-essential retail, without a storefront or street access entrance, will be able to resume. Also at 25 per cent capacity.
Here are the highlights of what’s allowed under Step 2:
- Outdoor social gatherings and organized public events with up to 25 people;
- Indoor social gatherings and organized public events with up to 5 people;
- Essential and other select retail permitted at 50 per cent capacity;
- Non-essential retail permitted at 25 per cent capacity;
- Personal care services where face coverings can be worn at all times, and at 25 per cent capacity and other restrictions;
- Outdoor dining with up to 6 people per table, with exceptions for larger households and other restrictions;
- Indoor religious services, rites, or ceremonies, including wedding services and funeral services permitted at up to 25 per cent capacity of the particular room;
- Outdoor fitness classes limited to the number of people who can maintain 3 metres of physical distance;
- Outdoor sports without contact or modified to avoid contact, with no specified limit on number of people or teams participating, with restrictions;
- Overnight camps for children operating in a manner consistent with the safety guidelines produced by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health;
- Outdoor sport facilities with spectators permitted at 25 per cent capacity;
- Outdoor concert venues, theatres and cinemas, with spectators permitted at 25 per cent capacity;
- Outdoor horse racing and motor speedways, with spectators permitted at 25 per cent capacity;
- Outdoor fairs, rural exhibitions, festivals, permitted at 25 per cent capacity and with other restrictions.
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.
On Wednesday, health officials reported first-dose coverage for adults aged 18 and older hit over 76 per cent with over 27 per cent second-dose coverage for adults.
“Ontario is ready to enter Step Two of our Roadmap, allowing us to safely and gradually ease public health measures while continuing to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Minister of Health Christine Elliott said.
“Thank you to the Ontarians who rolled up their sleeves to help us reach this exciting milestone. Every dose administered brings us one step closer to the things we’ve missed, so please sign up to receive the vaccine when it’s your turn.”
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.
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 (two metre distancing)
– 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
Opposition politicians called for more support for small businesses on Thursday to help them stay afloat after a long period of closures.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath called for another round of grants that would be open to more businesses.
“Getting workers back at work is the foundation of the recovery. But without more help from the government, businesses owners are worried that they might not make it to their reopening day or much beyond that,” Horwath said in a statement.
Green party Leader Mike Schreiner echoed the call for expanded access to grants, and for more rapid COVID-19 tests to be made available to businesses.
“In order for Ontario’s economy to recover from the pandemic, we need our small businesses to have a fighting chance. And that means stepping up supports for them now before it’s too late,” Schreiner said.
— With files from Nick Westoll & The Canadian Press