TORONTO — Outdoor concerts, open-air movie screens and performing arts shows are getting the green light in Ontario starting on Wednesday as the province moves forward with a COVID-19 reopening plan that hinges on strict capacity limits.
Provincial leaders outlined specifics on Thursday for the second stage of reopening, which includes small but crucial steps towards getting the local entertainment industry back into gear.
While hardly a return to normal, the loosened restrictions will allow for outdoor events, such as concerts and live theatre shows, to go ahead at a fraction of their usual size.
Audience capacity will be capped at 25 per cent of the outdoor space or seating area, with organizers required to have the maximum capacity restrictions visibly posted within the outdoor space. All tickets must be sold as reserved seats.
For Monica Gomez, those restrictions are enough for her company’s “Together Apart, Summer Cirque” live trapeze spectacle to open in Markham, Ont., next week after a tense period of uncertainty.
The show’s organizers installed more than 200 platforms, each hosting as many as eight people for the 360-degree outdoor stage show, but they had been anxiously looking towards their Canada Day opening without any clear guidance from the province.
“We’ve been planning this since February or March and gone (forward) under the assumption that we’ll be able to do these platforms,” Gomez said.
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“This was really cutting it down to the wire. The fact that we go into Phase 2 the day before we launch is pretty crazy.”
Other measures eased in the second stage include allowing musicians to perform at indoor concert venues for a limited number of reasons.
Live streaming shows are permitted, after being outlawed by the province in April as part of the “emergency brake” measures. However, the performances cannot host any spectators.
Indoor venues can also hold band rehearsals with certain distancing and safety measures in place.
The film and TV industry will see its restrictions lowered as well. In particular, a cap of 50 performers on-set has now been eliminated, though studio audiences are still not allowed.
The second stage of reopening was originally slated to begin July 2, but the province moved the plan forward two days, saying COVID-19 vaccination targets have been met.
More than 76 per cent of adults in Ontario have received one vaccine dose, while 29 per cent are fully vaccinated, meaning that the province has already met further targets to enter the third step of its reopening plan.
However, provincial health officials say they don’t intend to move into the next stage until “approximately 21 days” after the start of the second step, in hopes of gleaning more insight into infection rates and allowing vaccines to take full effect.
Indoor cinemas and public concerts still won’t be permitted with capacity restrictions until the third stage.