Province releases plan for reopening Ontario, says concerts, sporting events will be restricted for ‘forseeable future’
Codi Wilson and Chris Fox, CP24.com
Published Monday, April 27, 2020 7:28AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, April 27, 2020 11:42PM EDT
As part of the plan to eventually reopen Ontario, the provincial government will gradually ease public health measures on a two-to-four-week basis, beginning with the reopening of some outdoor spaces and allowing larger gatherings for certain events, such as funerals.
The provincial government's framework, which was released on Monday afternoon, indicates that businesses and outdoor spaces will reopen in three stages and could begin with parks and "select workplaces" that can "immediately meet or modify operations" to adhere to public health directives.
The resumption of some non-urgent and scheduled surgeries will also be part of the first stage of reopening.
The province will assess whether to move on to the second stage after a two-to-four-week period has passed.
The specific sectors that will be permitted to open first were not identified in the province's plan and the province did not provide an anticipated date for when the first stage will begin.
Speaking at a news conference at Queen's Park on Monday afternoon, Premier Doug Ford said the plan should be seen as more of a “roadmap” rather than a "calendar," adding that the province will not set "hard dates" until it is ready
"The framework is about how we are reopening, not when we are reopening," Ford said. "I won't set hard dates until we are ready because the virus travels at its own speed."
The second stage of the province's plan will look at reopening some service industries as well as additional office and retail workplaces and larger public gatherings will also be considered.
The final stage, the province says, will examine reopening all workplaces "responsibly."
While the province will look at further relaxing restrictions on public gatherings when it reaches stage three, the document notes that activities like concerts and sporting events will "continue to be restricted for the forseeable future."
A 'new normal'
"As public health measures are lifted and as economic activity resumes, the public will need to continue to maintain physical distancing and hand washing, along with self-isolation when experiencing COVID-19 symptoms," the province's document read, adding that remote work arrangements should continue where possible.
"The ongoing, gradual assessment of public health measures will continue until the post-pandemic period when a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 is available. The staged approach reflects Ontario's new normal."
Ford said the quicker the number of new daily cases decreases, the faster Ontario can start to resume some type of normalcy.
"I don't think it will ever go back to where it was before," he said.
Over the past three days, Ontario has seen a decline in the number of new cases of COVID-19 each day.
The province reported 424 new cases of COVID-19 and 57 more deaths on Monday. The total number of cases in Ontario is now 14,856, including 892 deaths and 8,525 recoveries.
All of the emergency orders issued by the province, including one ordering the closure of non-essential businesses, will remain in effect until at least May 6.
In order to ease restrictions, the province states that Ontario will need to see a "consistent" two-to-four-week decrease in the number of new daily COVID-19 cases as well as a decrease in the rate of cases that cannot be traced to a specific source. Ontario will also need to experience a decrease in the number of new cases in hospitals, the province says.
If there is a surge in new cases, the framework notes, restrictions that have been lifted can be implemented again.
Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said that the province "still has a ways to go" before we begin the first stage of reopening the economy.
"Right now we are in the pandemic phase," he told reporters at Queen's Park on Monday afternoon. "We still have numbers well over 400... so we have a ways to go before we get to start our first two-week period."
The province says "in the coming days," the Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee and MPPs will be meeting with business associations, chambers of commerce, the post-secondary sector, small business owners and others to discuss the "unique impacts" of the virus on various sectors and guidelines for success as Ontario moves through the stages of reopening "toward the recovery phase."
Other provinces release plans
A number of other provinces, which have already released plans to restart their economies, have indicated that reopening some businesses and outdoor facilities will begin next month.
Saskatchewan put out a five-phase plan last week that will start on May 4 with the opening of medical services. The plan then calls for the reopening of golf courses by May 15, retail and personal care services by May 19, and parks and campgrounds by June 1.
There is no date associated with Phase 3 of Saskatchewan’s framework, which includes opening things like restaurants, gyms, and child care facilities.
In New Brunswick, meanwhile, the province has announced the loosening of physical distancing guidelines to allow for two-household gatherings. It has also reopened golf course and outdoor spaces, such as parks and beaches, effective immediately.
Speaking with CP24 on Monday morning, Toronto Mayor John Tory said that he expects the province's plans to take the interests of Canada’s largest city into account.
“We are trying to make sure that the province and the City of Toronto work very much hand-in-hand because what you got here is a big city of three million people, the only one of its kind in the province or country and in that sense you can’t just sort of say that we are going to have rules for the province that don’t take into account a city of three million people,” he said, noting that he has been in “close contact” with Ford and other provincial officials.