Ontario government releases framework for reopening province
‘Our top priority remains protecting the health and safety of the people of Ontario’: Ford
By Allison Jones and Shawn Jeffords
TORONTO — Ontario says its plan to ease restrictions introduced because of the COVID-19 pandemic will happen in three stages, though the steps unveiled today contain few specifics or timelines.
“Our top priority remains protecting the health and safety of the people of Ontario and supporting our frontline heroes as we do everything in our power to contain and defeat this deadly virus,” said Premier Doug Ford.
“At the same time, we are preparing for the responsible restart of our economy. This next phase of our response to COVID-19 is designed to help us map out what needs to be done, and when, to get us back on the road to recovery.”
Stage one in the framework published today could include opening select workplaces that can modify operations, such as providing curbside pickup or delivery; opening parks; allowing for more people at certain events such as funerals; and having hospitals resume some non-urgent surgeries.
Stage two could include opening more businesses, such as service, retail or office workplaces; opening more outdoor spaces; and allowing some larger public gatherings.
Stage three would include having all workplaces open and further relaxing rules on public gatherings — though large ones such as sports events and concerts would still be restricted.
The framework says each of the three stages will last about two to four weeks, though it does not provide any specific dates.
Hygiene, sanitation guidelines to come
At the end of each period, the chief medical officer could advise staying in that stage longer, moving onto the next stage or reintroducing certain restrictions to prevent new outbreaks.
Dr. David Williams will take various factors into account for those decisions, the framework states, including seeing a consistent, two-to-four week decrease in the number of new cases and a decrease in cases that can’t be traced back to a source.
Williams would also need to see fewer new hospitalizations and enough acute and critical care capacity in hospitals, including access to ventilators and a good supply of personal protective equipment.
The gradual reopening will continue until the pandemic has passed or a vaccine is available, the framework says.
Businesses that are reopening will be given guidelines by the government on how to do so safely, including hygiene and sanitation standards and physical distancing measures.
The province recently extended a state of emergency in place since mid-March to mid-May. Public gatherings of more than five people are banned and all non-essential businesses have been closed, as have child-care centres and outdoor recreational amenities.
With files from OHS Canada