Outdoor fitness classes and outdoor training is now permitted with certain restrictions for regions placed in the ‘Grey-Lockdown’ level of Ontario’s pandemic framework.
Fitness classes and training sessions are now allowed with a maximum of 10 patrons and active patron screening in effect.
The Ford government announced the modifications on Friday that will also see personal care services such as hair and nail salons reopen on April 12.
Also as of Monday, marinas and boating clubs can resume operations of clubhouses or any restaurant, bar, and other food or drink establishment for outdoor dining.
In addition to the modifications to businesses, the province announced that outdoor capacity limits for weddings, funerals, and religious services, rites or ceremonies, have been adjusted to allow for the number of people that can maintain two metres of physical distance.
This change does not apply to social gatherings associated with these services such as receptions.
Despite the changes, Toronto and Peel Region will remain in lockdown until further notice with Hamilton joining them in the ‘grey zone’ as of Monday.
Premier Doug Ford defended the decision to loosen the rules in lockdown regions even as the province stares a third wave of the pandemic in the face.
“I’m very, very concerned,” said Ford. “A message to the people of Ontario. Do not let your guard down … We’re loosening it up, just a little bit.”
For the fourth straight day on Sunday, Ontario reported more than 2,000 new cases of COVID-19 cases.
Toronto accounted for almost 32 per cent of the new cases with 780 infections reported, followed by 356 in Peel Region.
Hamilton was one of only two regions within the GTHA to report fewer than 100 new cases, confirming 78 on Sunday.
An additional 108 variants of concern (VOCs) were confirmed by the province with 102 of those being the variant first discovered in the U.K. That’s the highest number of new VOCs reported since the beginning of March.
The President of Ontario’s Hospital Association (OHA) issued a statement Friday, saying, “As Ontario’s 3rd wave of COVID-19 worsens, the province’s critical care appears to be reaching saturation. If ICU admissions rise as expected, hospitals will face extreme pressure to ensure equitable access to life-saving critical care.”
The number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 remains above 900 with 366 of the those patients in the ICU.
The Registered Nurses Association of Ontario released a statement on Saturday urging Premier Ford to scale back reopening plans, including the scheduled reopening of personal care services, such as hair salons in lockdown zones.
The province’s own modelling projections indicate highly contagious variants could see daily case counts balloon, while COVID-19 patients are already occupying Ontario’s intensive care beds at levels “well above the threshold at which hospitals say they can cope,” the statement said.
Canada’s chief public health officer warned Saturday that current health orders are not enough to stop rapid growth of COVID-19.
“With increasing circulation of highly contagious variants, the threat of uncontrolled epidemic growth is significantly elevated,” said Dr. Theresa Tam.
Tam said public health orders across Canada need to be stronger, stricter and sustained long enough to control the rise of variants of concern.