Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he has no firm date or timeline for when the province can move to the third and final stage of reopening its economy, saying he doesn’t “have a crystal ball” and wants to avoid the surge in cases seen in some U.S. states.
A large portion of Ontario has now spent three weeks in Stage 2 of reopening – which allows for outdoor dining, resumption of public pools and shopping malls, while Toronto and Peel Region have been in that stage for less than two weeks.
“Since it’s going to be last stage we want to make sure our t’s are crossed and I’s are dotted,” Premier Ford said Friday.
Asked if Stage 3 could occur later in the month, Ford suggested it was possible.
“You’re pretty close . . . to the end of July – I just don’t have a crystal ball, I can’t give you an exact date,” he said. “We‘re doing everything we can we’re moving responsibly – we’re leading North America for the number of cases for any jurisdiction our size.”
Stage 3 could involve a resumption of services such as gyms and fitness studios, movie theatres, indoor dining, bars and possibly recreational team sports.
Ontario as a whole has been reporting between 100 to 200 cases of COVID-19 per day for much of the past three weeks.
Meanwhile, many southern U.S. states that fully reopened even the most infection-prone parts of their economy such as nightclubs and bars are seeing 5,000 to 10,000 new cases per day.
“You see what’s happening south of the border, we don’t want that to happen here,” Ford said,
The province now tests at least 20,000 people per day for infection but other aspects of the province’s plan to curb the spread of the virus are still under construction.
A new contact tracing app, meant to enable people to find out instantly once a close contact tests positive was originally slated for release this week but is now delayed.
It will also take most of the summer for the province’s 34 local public health units and Public Health Ontario to integrate their data collection systems to eliminate the need for outdate transfers of data using fax machines.
“We’ll get there very shortly – it’s in front of the (health) committee then it will go to the health table and the health table will get final call on it,” Ford said of the determination for a date to move to Stage 3.
He said in Stage 3, mass public gatherings such as large concerts and professional sports games would continue to be banned, but most other businesses would be allowed to resume.
His government also announced Friday that it would spend up to $3 million to deliver health and safety training with COVID-19 specific tips to up to 100,000 workers via online tutorials.
The training would be free for participating workers and employers.