Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown is calling on the province to reopen personal care services, including hair salons and barbershops, ahead of schedule amid an increase in vaccination rates and the improving “COVID case picture” in Ontario.

Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday morning, Brown said he would be sending a letter to the premier on behalf of impacted businesses.

“Given the fact that the COVID case picture has improved dramatically, lockdowns across the province have led to an underground market when it comes to personal care services and you have to call a spade a spade,” Brown said.

“The reality is there's haircuts happening out there. It's in backyards, it's in garages. You've created an underground economy and given the COVID case declines, I believe there is a pathway to safely reopen in advance of July 2.”

The province entered Stage 1 of the reopening framework on June 11 and as part of the Ford government’s plan, the province must stay in Stage 1 for at least 21 days before advancing to Stage 2, when personal care services will be allowed to open.

"Personal care services had strict infection protocols and other safety procedures in place prior to the pandemic,” Brown said.

“These places have been closed in Brampton since November 23. As you may recall, the personal care services in Toronto and Peel were told on March 26 that they could reopen on April 12, which did not happen due to the emergency brake being applied.”

Ontario reported 296 new COVID-19 infections on Tuesday, the lowest single-day total logged in the province since September. Virus-related hospitalizations and intensive care admissions have also steadily continued to decline in Ontario.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) has repeatedly called on the province to move up its reopening timeline.

Last week CFIB President Dan Kelly said personal care services and gyms should be able to reopen immediately

“At this rate, many provinces will be back to normal business operations before Ontarians can even get a haircut. We need to pick up the pace now, or many businesses won’t even make it to reopening,” he said in a statement released last Tuesday.

“Most of these low-risk business activities have been open for weeks or months in other provinces, or, like retail in B.C., never closed at all during the pandemic.”

The premier was asked Wednesday afternoon if he is considering moving the province into Stage 2 earlier than originally expected.

“I'll be sitting down with the health table and Dr. Williams, and we'll make that decision. But no one in this province wants to open up quicker than I do,” Premier Doug Ford said.

“I just can't wait. People are ready. Everyone has worked really, really hard.”