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A quicker move to Step 2? Ontario not ruling it out but 'too soon to say'

Last Updated Jun 10, 2021 at 3:33 pm EDT

Ontario Premier Doug Ford,, right, speaks as Ontario's Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton, left, and Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott, centre, give an update regarding the Ontario COVID-19 vaccine during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Tuesday, January 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

As the province gears up to enter Step 1 of its reopening plan ahead of schedule on Friday, Ontario’s Health Minister isn’t completely committing to a similar and earlier move in Step 2.

Following the province’s announcement on vaccines that will see Toronto and various GTA region residents able to book earlier second dose appointments as of Monday, Health Minister Christine Elliott was asked if the government would move ahead to Step 2 prior to the tentative July 2 date.

“I know that’s an issue that many people are concerned about,” said Elliott. “It is something that is really up to our medical experts to advise. Once we move into stage one we need to see how that goes, what is the effect of that first opening on the health of the people of Ontario.”

“… It’s too soon to say what we might be able to do with subsequent [21 day] intervals but we’ll have to see what the effect is now and starting tomorrow with the health of people in Ontario and then our medical officer of health and his advisors would then advise us accordingly,” Elliott added.

The Ford government’s reopening has been promising thus far after the province announced Monday that Step 1 will begin a few days ahead of schedule, moving ahead on June 11 instead of the targeted June 14 date.

This will see non-essential retail with street-front entrances reopen at capacity, along with the resumption of patio and outdoor dining.

Each step (or stage) will be in place for at least 21 days “to evaluate any impacts on key public health and health system indicators.”

The government says that if at the end of the 21 days specified vaccination thresholds have been met, “along with positive trends in other key public health and health system indicators,” then the province will move to the next step.

Step 2, which was recently moved up to tentatively begin on July 2, would see hair and nail salons reopen as well as larger outdoor gatherings and expanded capacity for essential and non-essential retail.

Step 2 also requires that 70 per cent of Ontario adults be vaccinated with one dose and 20 per cent be fully immunized against the virus.

As of Thursday, the province says 73 per cent of adults have received at least one shot.

“To further stop the spread of COVID-19 and support Delta hot spots, we are further expanding booking eligibility for an accelerated dose in select regions across the province,” Health Minister Elliott said.

On Wednesday, Aurora Mayor Tom Mrakas said a motion was unanimously passed to request allowing personal service businesses and gyms to reopen as of 12:01 am on June 18 as part of Step 1.

“This continues a cautious approach while allowing our businesses to begin to recover,” Mrakas said.

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