Premier Doug Ford on Thursday announced that the first stage of the Ontario government’s reopening plan would begin next week, allowing for retail stores outside of malls to open, scheduled surgeries to resume and construction to start once again after lockdowns in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Flanked by four of his cabinet ministers, Ford was cautious and warned that businesses should not reopen unless they are “ready” but was optimistic about a revitalization of the economy along the stage-focused plan set out by the province.
“As we get more and more people back to work, the risk of flare ups is real, so we need to stay vigilant,” the premier said at the press conference, adding that “we can’t take our progress for granted” as Ontario experiences its lowest COVID-19 infection numbers since March in recent days.
Golf courses, marinas, boat clubs, private parks, campgrounds and businesses that board animals will open in a limited capacity as of Saturday morning. It will be followed by the larger “stage one” reopening on Tuesday that also includes household maintenance and in-person counselling.
Ford insisted on Thursday that residents should remain “vigilant” and continue to remain two metres away from those who do not reside in the same home.
Economic development minister Vic Fedeli said the retail industry can take three seperate approaches: continue to offer products digitally, carry out curbside pick-up or open its doors but warned that the last option will need to be carried out with caution.
The government unveiled a framework in late April and established criteria for the reopening to begin — including consistent decrease in new daily cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, a set of public health timeliness objectives and hospital capacity.
As for schools, an announcement is still expected.
The provincial reopening plan in regards to other businesses and religious centres are expected to come in subsequent announcements but Ford said he was unable to confirm a timeframe due to the fliudity of the pandemic situation.
Restaurants will need to remain closed for the time being and continue operating only with delivery.
This is a developing story and will be updated.
(Reporting by Eli Ridder; Files from Jack Fisher)