Ontario’s plan for Stage 3 restart has been released by Premier Doug Ford, with nearly all businesses and public spaces being able to reopen. This marks the final stage of reopening before the province enters the recovery phase of its framework, focused on long-term growth and recovery.
As with previous stages, a regional approach is being advanced for Stage 3, based on trends of key public health indicators: virus spread and containment, health system capacity, public health system capacity and incidence tracking capacity.
As of Friday, July 17, 24 regions will move into Stage 3, including Ottawa and most of Eastern, Southwestern, and Northern Ontario. The remaining 10 areas, including Toronto, the GTHA, Niagara Region and Windsor-Essex Region, are expected to move to Stage 3 soon, provided that case numbers continue to decrease.
Health Minister Christine Elliott confirmed that Ontario will remain in Stage 3 for the foreseeable future – likely until there is a vaccine – with potential loosening of restrictions under Stage 3 if the data allows. Looking ahead, the Chief Medical Officer of Health and public health experts will closely monitor and advise when more regions can enter Stage 3, if public health restrictions can be loosened, or if they need to be tightened or reapplied.
Not included in today’s announcement was a requirement for mandatory use of masks or face coverings in indoor public spaces or commercial establishments (masks remain recommended when physical distancing is a challenge). Several municipalities and regions across Ontario have issued public health orders mandating mask use, with some municipalities implementing (or in the process of implementing) bylaws to compel masks – the Province believes this is best left to municipal authorities to determine.
Childcare and Back to School Planning
Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced that Ontario childcare centres will be permitted to operate with cohorts of 15 children as of July 27. This change will allow the childcare sector to fill 90 per cent of its operating capacity before the COVID-19 outbreak.
When questioned about how parents without access to childcare spots will cope, the Minister commented that home-based childcare locations and summer day camps will be available to parents as well.
Minister Lecce also commented on the back-to-school planning that the government is currently undertaking with local boards. He confirmed the best case would be to get all children back in to school, however government is being prudent and planning for all eventualities to ensure health and safety of staff and students. The Minister stated he will be sharing more about the school reopening plan for September in the coming days.
Stage 3 Restart: Measures at a Glance
- Nearly all businesses and public spaces will be permitted to open, subject to health and safety measures and limits on gathering sizes.
- Businesses are encouraged to ensure that equipment and high-touch surfaces are frequently cleaned and disinfected, encourage use of appointments or assigned seating or spaces to manage physical distancing and flow in establishments, and to consider recording each patron’s name and contact information to support contact tracing.
- Where possible, businesses are strongly encouraged to continue to allow remote work and working from home to contain the spread of COVID-19.
- Gathering limits are increased and the two metre physical distancing requirement remains in place:
- Indoor gathering limits will increase to a maximum of 50 people
- Outdoor gathering limits will increase to a maximum of 100 people
- All businesses, services and public spaces when hosting an event are subject to the indoor and outdoor gathering limits. People at their place of work do not count towards gathering limits.
- Social circles will remain at the 10-person limit in place, regardless of stage.
- Certain high-risk places and activities, representing about 1 per cent of the province’s businesses, are not safe to re-open, including:
- Amusement parks and water parks
- Buffet-style food services
- Dancing at restaurants and bars
- Overnight stays at camps for children