Public health restrictions on businesses and gatherings are rolling back further in Ontario on Wednesday.
Most of the province entered Step 2 of the Ford government’s three-step economic reopening plan at 12:01 a.m. on June 30 – two days earlier than originally scheduled.
The move to Step 2 means barbers, salons and personal care services will be allowed to resume – capacity limits for retail stores and patios will also expand.
Outdoor gathering capacity will increase to 25 people, while indoor gatherings of up to five people will be allowed.
“The only few things that aren’t open are, you know, the indoor dining which is going to happen, and really outside of the casinos and the strip joints, they’re the only three things that aren’t open now,” said Premier Doug Ford.
“I’ll be honest with you, everything else seems to be moving forward, but again we have to be cautious about the Delta variant and the gyms.”
Outdoor fitness classes are permitted but gyms can’t reopen until Step 3 and Ford is asking gym owners to remain patient.
“The gyms, my heart breaks for the people, we got to get those gyms open, folks just bear with us for a very short period, it’s going to happen, I have to follow the direction of the chief medical officer,” he said.
A surge in Delta variant cases will delay the Region of Waterloo from moving into the Step 2 with the rest of the province.
“To give our residents more time to be vaccinated, to avoid having to take a step back, and based on our situation at this time, I anticipate the Region of Waterloo will be able to move into Step 2 in mid-July,” said Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, Waterloo’s Medical Officer of Health.
Waterloo is now the only public health unit that will stay behind since the Porcupine health unit announced it will be joining the rest of the province on Wednesday.
The unit in northeastern Ontario only entered Step 1 last Friday, lagging several weeks behind due to a recent surge in cases.
In a statement released on Monday, Porcupine’s medical officer of health says efforts by community members and businesses have brought case numbers down to the lowest they’ve been in months.
The Ford government has tentatively said that Step 2 will stick around for 21 days so health experts and officials can ensure COVID indicators don’t start moving in the wrong direction with loosened restrictions.
What’s allowed in Step 2?
- Maximum 25 people for outdoor gatherings
- Maximum 5 people for indoor gatherings
Religious services, rites or ceremonies, including wedding services and funeral services (does not apply to receptions)
- Indoor permitted at 25% capacity of the room
- Outdoor permitted with capacity limited to permit physical distancing of 2 metres
- Essential retail at 50% capacity
- Non-essential retail at 25% capacity
- Open at 50% capacity
Restaurants and bars
- Outdoor dining with 6 people per table and other restrictions
- Karaoke permitted with restrictions (outdoor only)
Personal care services
- Open at 25% capacity to maximum of 5 people
- Appointment required
- Services that require the removal of a face covering not permitted
Sports and recreational fitness facilities
- Outdoor sports leagues open
- Training for professional or amateur athletes and/or competitions
- Closed for indoor use except for high-performance athletes and day camps
Personal fitness and training
- Outdoor fitness classes and personal training – with limit on the number of patrons, 3 metres distance
Outdoor recreational amenities
- Open with restrictions
- Outdoor pools, splash pads, spray pads, whirlpools, wading pools and water slides open
Meeting and event spaces
- Outdoor spaces open at 25% capacity and other restrictions
- Indoor meeting and event spaces closed, with exceptions for certain purposes, including for viewing for potential booking of a future event
While Ontario gets set to enter Step 2 of the economic reopening plan on Wednesday – talk has already turned to Step 3.
Premier Doug Ford hinted Monday that the reopening may proceed quicker than his government’s current plan. Ford said he will be meeting with the province’s new top doctor, and he if he gets the all-clear then Step 3 could be coming sooner than expected.
“There’s no one that wants to open this province up more than I do, we’re very very close,” said Ford. “We’ll be sitting down with the new chief medical officer of health, Dr. (Kieran) Moore, and we’ll get his advice, and if he gives us the green light — lets get this province open and start moving, I can’t wait, I really can’t.”
Dr. Moore held his first official news conference Tuesday afternoon and said he thinks a 21 day interval between Step 2 and 3 is prudent.
“We need that 21 days to understand the impact of opening on our communities,” said Moore.
Provincial vaccination rates now exceed the rates outlined by the Ford government in the ‘Roadmap to Reopening.’
As of Sunday, more than 76.6 per cent of Ontario adults have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and more than 35 per cent are now fully vaccinated.