The province of Ontario announced Monday that it will take a gradual, three-stage approach to reopening the economy while maintaining an emphasis on containment and public safety.
The province declared a state of emergency in mid-March in an effort to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, ordering the closure of any businesses it deemed non-essential. The state of emergency was recently extended until mid-May.
Premier Doug Ford wouldn’t provide any specific dates for the reopening, stressing the unpredictable nature of the highly-contagious virus.
“The framework is about how we are reopening, not when we are reopening,” Ford said.
“I won’t set hard dates until we are ready, because the virus travels at its own speed.”
According to a document released by the province on Monday, the first stage would see select workplaces reopen, and allow some small gatherings to take place.
Stage two would see more workplaces opened, along with larger gatherings.
The final stage would further relax restrictions on public gatherings, and open all workplaces responsibly.
“There is light at the end of this tunnel,” said Minister of Health Christine Elliott. “We have a clear path forward to safely and gradually ease restrictions.”
Elliott added that there’s a plan in place for bringing back elective surgeries, with cancer surgeries at the top of the list.
Premier Ford says he can't commit to when concerts and sporting events will resume. Framework says not for the foreseeable future. Premier adds when they do come back he doesn't see full stadiums anywhere in North America #covid19
— Cynthia Mulligan (@CityCynthia) April 27, 2020
Each stage in the reopening plan would be monitored by public health officials for two to four weeks and certain measures and restrictions could be reapplied if the virus proves too difficult to contain.
“As public health measures are lifted and as economic activity resumes, the public will need to continue to maintain physical distancing and hand washing, along with self-isolation when experiencing COVID-19 symptoms,” the province said in a release.
“Remote work arrangements should continue where feasible.”
“By taking this incremental approach, the government can ensure there are appropriate measuers in place to reopen the province safely and limit any risks to people and public health. Each stage requires careful assessment and monitoring to know whether to adjust, tighten or loosen measures.”
Shuttered businesses that meet or modify operations to meet public health and safety standards will be among the first to reopen. Some parks will reopen and more people would be permitted to attend certain events like funerals.
If the initial stage proves successful, the next phases will begin.
The stages will commence at the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health and be based upon the following criteria and thresholds: