Ontario moving to Step Two on Wednesday

A woman wears a facemask while getting a haircut. (© Can Stock Photo / geargodz)

With public health care indicators trending in the right direction, the Ontario government will move the province into step two of its Roadmap to Reopen plan two days early.

Ontario will loosen more COVID-19 restrictions as of 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, June 30. Previously, the government had planned to implement step two on Friday, July 2.

“Because of the tireless work of our healthcare heroes, and the record-setting success of our vaccine rollout, we are able to move to step two ahead of schedule,” said Premier Doug Ford. “We are proceeding safely with the reopening of our province and will continue to work around the clock until the job is done.”

Before Ontario could advance, 70 per cent of all adults needed to have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 20 per cent fully vaccinated for at least two weeks. By June 23, over 76 per cent had had their first shot, and over 29 per cent had their second.

The province also needed to see improvements in other key public health and health care indicators. That included a drop in the number of hospitalizations because of the virus, ICU occupancy, and weekly case rates. Since entering step one, the provincial case rate dropped by 24.6 per cent, and on Tuesday, the number of patients in intensive care was 305, down from 450 just two weeks ago.

Now that the province is going into step two, here are the restrictions being loosened.

* outdoor gatherings with up to 25 people are allowed

* indoor social gatherings with up to five people inside

* essential businesses can open up to 50 per cent of capacity

* non-essential businesses can open up to 25 per cent capacity

* as many as six people can dine at the same table at an outdoor restaurant or bar patio

* outdoor fitness classes can be held so long as participants can remain three metres distance from each other

* personal care services can open at 25 per cent capacity so long as face coverings are worn at all times

* indoor religious services, including weddings and funerals, can operate at 25 per cent capacity in the room

* outdoor sports facilities, concert venues, horse racing, motor speedways, theatres, and cinemas can open to spectators at 25 per cent capacity

* outdoor fairs, rural exhibitions, and festivals can open to 25 per cent capacity with other restrictions

* outdoor sports without contact or modified to avoid contact can be played

* overnight camps for children can operate so long as they are consistent with safety guidelines

Ontario has surpassed vaccination targets set for entering stage three but may stay in step two for 21 days so public health officials can monitor the impact of loosening the rules. It will also give those who have just recently been vaccinated time for their shots to reach full effectiveness.

“Every dose administered brings us one step closer to the things we’ve missed,” said Health Minister Christine Elliott. “So, please sign up to receive your vaccine when it’s your turn.”

Ontario is scheduled to move to step three on July 21.