Non-essential construction in Ontario will be allowed to resume in the first step of the new Three-Step Roadmap to Safely Reopen the Province.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford unveiled the new reopening plan during a press conference held Thursday, May 20.
Step 1 of the roadmap will come into effect when 60 per cent of all Ontario residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. As of May 20, About 48.2 per cent of Ontario residents have received at least one dose.
“This is being done slowly and with extreme caution. And it will be done with a gradual three-step roadmap,” Ford said. “I know there might be some people that want to move faster, but we can’t risk it right now.”
Although none of the three steps in the plan have set dates, Ontario’s Minister of Health Christine Elliott explained that based on current vaccination rates, Ontario is likely to enter Step 1 on June 14.
“With this roadmap, it is clear there are brighter days ahead,” Elliott said.
Step 1 includes an initial focus on resuming outdoor activities with smaller crowds where the risk of transmission is lower, and permitting retail with restrictions. This includes allowing outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people, outdoor dining with up to four people per table and non-essential retail at 15 per cent capacity.
“The province will remain in each step for at least 21 days,” Elliott said.
Non-essential construction was halted in Ontario as the province looked to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Ford made the closure announcement on April 16, alongside numerous other restrictions.
Now, the province looks towards reopening as case numbers and hospitalizations begin to fall.
“Control of the pandemic is improving, due to the current public health measures and vaccinations. These are the efforts of Ontarians that are bringing this under control,” said Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of the province’s COVID-19 science table. “Our picture today looks different. The direction of the pandemic has turned, and if we’re careful and cautious we can maintain this momentum.”
Although hospitalizations are decreasing, the number of COVID-19 patients in Ontario’s ICUs has just recently fallen below the numbers recorded during the peak of the second wave.
“We still have a very high number of patients with COVID-19 in our intensive care units. Our hospitals remain at risk, and it’s our care and caution that will bring them out of this risk,” Brown said.
Ontario had planned to end the current lockdown on June 2. However, Brown explained that plan would lead to a rise in cases that would now subside until later in the summer.
“Waiting to the middle of June to reopen will likely bring cases down to a very low level,” Brown said. “This are challenging choices. No one wants a fourth wave. We as a community need to be careful and cautious to avoid that fourth wave.”