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Elliott suggests province could reopen days, not week ahead of June 14 date

Last Updated Jun 3, 2021 at 6:43 pm EDT

Are patios coming sooner than expected? That remains unclear, but Ontario’s Health Minister did provide a little more insight into the government’s plans when it comes to Step 1 of reopening tentatively slated for June 14.

One day after Premier Doug Ford hinted that the province could reopen ahead of schedule, reporters asked Christine Elliott to provide more details.

“I don’t have a specific date. I don’t think it would be a week earlier but it may be a few days earlier that we may be able to proceed,” Elliott said.

The Premier’s office tells 680 NEWS that Step 1 of the plan will not take place this weekend and that “plenty of notice” will be given to businesses when it’s ready to reopen.

Step 1 of the province’s roadmap to reopening requires 60 percent of adults be vaccinated with one dose with hospitalizations, ICU occupancy and new admissions down.

Outdoor settings would expand to 10 people with up to four people able to dine together at a patio per table. Essential retail would be capped at 25 per cent capacity and non-essential retail – such as malls – would resume at 15 per cent capacity.

On the subject of reopening ahead of time, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said the “data is less promising at this time,” pointing to a concerning rise in cases over the last few days.

Worries over the more contagious Delta variant, first detected in India, had the government considering whether to allow residents to book their second vaccine doses sooner and critics cautioning against easing public health measures too quickly.

“We know that people are anxious to move into Step 1, but we can only do that when it’s safe for everyone’s health for that to happen,” added Elliott.

Government House Leader Paul Calandra was asked outright if patios would reopen as soon as this weekend but wouldn’t give a clear answer.

“There is a lot that goes into this and we want to make sure we get this right,” he said. “We will be guided by and working with the Chief Medical Officer of Health to do just that.”

On Wednesday, Ford said admitted he is cautiously optimistic the province could reopen just ahead of schedule but denied putting the economy first and ahead of students and teachers.

“I’m so hopeful that as things are going, we may be able to enter Step 1 safely earlier than June the 14th,” Ford said.

He then backtracked saying that the province would “stick to the plan” in light of the growing delta (B.1.617) variant being reported in Ontario.

Some critics accused the premier of prioritizing the economy over schools – the opposite of the approach championed by the province’s top doctor, who has said repeatedly that he believes schools should be the last to close and the first to open during the pandemic.

“Today [Wednesday], Doug Ford chose patios over schools. Patios over people,” Liberal house leader John Fraser said.

The first dose vaccination rate in Ontario has since surpassed 70 per cent, beyond where the province said they needed to be for Step 1 of the reopening plan to begin.

Ford says it’s not just vaccination rates that the government is looking at to determine the reopening timeline.

“We’re going to be opening up but we’re going to be opening up cautiously and carefully, very cautiously and very carefully because I do not want to happen what happened before and all of a sudden the cases go up.”

Ontario is reporting 870 new cases of COVID-19 today and 10 more deaths linked to the virus.

Health Minister Elliott says there are 225 new cases in Toronto, 167 in Peel Region and 49 in the Porcupine Health Unit region.

With files from 680 NEWS business editor Richard Southern and The Canadian Press

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