Doug Ford announces new 3-step Ontario COVID reopening plan
The Ontario government's highly-anticipated reopening plan for post-lockdown life has finally been announced, and this time around everything is based on vaccination rates.
"We're now in a position to look at a slow and measured reopening in the province," said Premier Doug Ford during a press conference at Queen's Park Thursday afternoon, crediting the ongoing emergency break shutdown and stay-at-home order for a "steady improvement in our situation as ICU and hospital numbers begin to stabilize."
"Working in lockstep with our public health officials, we've created a plan to safely reopen in the coming weeks," said Ford.
"It will be done through a gradual, three-step roadmap to safely reopen Ontario. Similar to the U.K., Quebec and Saskatchewan, we're taking a gradual and phased approach based on hitting vaccination targets."
Health Minister Christine Elliott stated that the government is hoping to put all of Ontario into the first phase of the plan "around the week of June 14th," which would open up patios, outdoor fitness classes, and non-essential retail (at 15 per cent capacity) among other things.
But first, even before we hit Step 1, the province is finally allowing outdoor recreational amenities to reopen — this Saturday, May 22, at 12:01 a.m.
After that, we'll set out on what the province had dubbed its "Roadmap to Reopen": a "cautious three-step plan that will guide a safe and gradual reopening of the province and the lifting of public health measures based on the provincewide vaccination rate and improvements in key public health and health system indicators."
Ontario has scrapped the idea of lifting restrictions by region, as was prescribed under the previous colour-coded reopening framework. Instead, the entire province will be evaluated as a group based on overall vaccination rates as well as improvements in key public health and health system indicators.
The province will remain in each of the three steps "for at least 21 days to evaluate any impacts." If, at the end of each 21 day period, vaccination thresholds and other criteria have been met, we will move forward as a group into the next step.
Here's what we can expect from each step, and what we need to do to get there, per the provincial government:
"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 nonessential retail at 15 per cent capacity.
"Further expanding outdoor activities and resuming limited indoor services with small numbers of people where face coverings are worn. This includes outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people, outdoor sports and leagues, personal care services where face coverings can be worn and with capacity limits, as well as indoor religious services, rites or ceremony gatherings at 15 per cent capacity."
"Expanding access to indoor settings, with restrictions, including where there are larger numbers of people and where face coverings can't always be worn. This includes indoor sports and recreational fitness; indoor dining, museums, art galleries and libraries, and casinos and bingo halls, with capacity limits."
As of today, Thursday, May 20, per the Ministry of Health's most-recent data, approximately 48.2 per cent of all Ontario residents (children and adults) have now been vaccinated.
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