Ontario is shifting to step Three of the plan to reopen the coronavirus this summer season on July 16
Ontario will move to the third step in its summer reopening plan on July 16, reopening indoor restaurants, indoor fitness activities, cinemas and nightclubs for the first time in months, but capacity restrictions will remain in place until August.
The Ford cabinet met Friday morning to confirm measures that will allow indoor dining to resume across the province, with capacity limited to the number of people who can physically maintain a two-meter distance , as well as numerous other relaxed restrictions throughout the economy.
The relaxed measures will take effect on Friday morning at 12:01 p.m., the government said in a press release.
They also confirmed the existence of a fourth step in the reopening plan which would remove “the vast majority of public health and safety measures in the workplace, including indoor and outdoor capacity limits and social gathering restrictions”.
They say Ontario will stay in Step 3 for at least 21 days, and until 80 percent of Ontarians over 12 have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 75 percent a second dose.
By Friday, 78 percent of Ontarians 12 and over had received a first dose and 50 percent had received a second dose.
Dr. Kieran Moore, chief medical officer of Health, said it was important to get as many people as possible vaccinated this summer to prevent a fall resurgence.
“I think it’s an ambitious goal,” he said of the 80/75 line. “I think it’s a call to arms for all Ontarians – I think we all want a return to a post-pandemic world. I absolutely assume that we will have an increase in cases in the fall when we move indoors. “
He said that for 80 percent of people 12 years and older, a first dose would severely limit transmission, even as the weather got colder.
“We have several weeks – six to seven weeks before September to really speak to your family and friends and make sure they are vaccinated – to make sure all questions about vaccines are answered,” he said, adding that the Delta variant still keeps him “awake at night”. “
Prime Minister Doug Ford said the new eased restrictions in the plan don’t mean Ontarians should become complacent.
“Guys, this is far from over, we still have a good fight,” he told reporters in Brampton on Friday. “So let’s not drive the winning lap, just be hardworking and get vaccinated again.”
From July 16, all retailers will also be allowed to accept as many customers as they can accommodate within a physical distance of two meters.
Cinemas, amusement parks and indoor fitness facilities are allowed to reopen with 50 percent occupancy.
Indoor gatherings are allowed for up to 25 people indoors or 100 people outdoors.
Nightclubs and restaurants with dance floors will be limited to 25 percent of pre-pandemic capacity, up to 250 guests.
The size of any party sitting inside or outside a restaurant will no longer be limited, while current guidelines limit the size of a table to six guests.
Plus, professional sports venues can accommodate up to 15,000 outdoor spectators, which is 75 percent of their pre-pandemic capacity. Indoors, they’re allowed to hold 1,000 spectators, or half the pre-pandemic capacity, whichever is smaller.
Elsewhere in sport, all sporting activities with contact may be resumed.
Personal care facilities are also allowed to resume services that require mask removal.
Places of worship are allowed to accommodate as many people as possible, provided the distance of two meters can be maintained.
Event and conference venues can have up to 1,000 attendees, or 50 percent of pre-pandemic capacity, whichever is less.
Last month, Moore appeared to be suggesting that the province would not move on to Step 3 prematurely, as the Delta variant needed time for them to analyze case trends.
In a speech on Friday, Moore said he had no reason to stick to the previous schedule given the rapid pace of vaccination.
“I saw no reason to hold back with so many Ontarians calling in – nearly 200,000 a day calling in (for vaccination),” he told reporters.
Moore emphasized that despite all the relaxed restrictions, there is still a mask requirement in all publicly accessible indoor spaces.
The Scientific Director of the COVID-19 Science Advisory Table in Ontario, Dr. Peter Jüni, reiterating his concern, said this week that the province is not ready for step 3 due to the increased transmission capacity of the delta variant.
Toronto Mayor John Tory issued a statement Friday supporting the accelerated transition to Step 3.
“I support this decision as it is based on advice from health officials and I believe it is the right thing to do as we continue to see lower case numbers and higher vaccination rates,” he said. “This makes continuous advances in vaccinations more important than ever.”
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) responded to the news by saying that this agreement leads to a fourth level of restrictions, at which they will mostly end permanently.
“While this is good news, for those companies facing capacity constraints and other constraints, it won’t get them on the road to profitability after accumulating an average of over $ 200,000 in COVID-related debt,” said a spokesman. “You will have to wait until early August for a full reopening under the new plan to move on to Step 4.”
Cinemas, indoor restaurants and gyms have been closed in Toronto and the Peel Region since October 2020.
Ontario Restaurant, Hotel and Motel Association president Tony Elenis called the long indoor dining exposure “a very frustrating wait”.
“After a very frustrating wait that has put our patience to the test, we are delighted that the Province of Ontario is announcing the required regulations for Step 3 of the Ontario reopening. This is a good move for Ontario’s hospitality operations and at this point we’re happy with the announcement of the capacity rules. “
Strip clubs, bathhouses, and sex clubs are also allowed to reopen in Step 3.
Strip clubs are limited to the number of guests who can be physically separated by two meters, with patrons and performers three meters apart.
Bathhouses and sex clubs will be limited to 50 percent of pre-pandemic capacity, up to the number of guests that can be physically separated by two meters.
Other cultural sites such as museums, science centers, and aquariums will be limited to 50 percent of pre-pandemic capacity.
Casinos are also reopening at 50 percent of pre-pandemic capacity.
Moore said any local health authority will be able to decline moving to Step 3 if local conditions warrant and will implement additional “restrictions”.
– With files from Colin D’Mello, CTV News Toronto