'A great feeling': Hair cuts, outdoor performances and more return as nearby regions move into Step 2

The streets in Guelph and Stratford had a little extra buzz in the air Wednesday as more businesses were allowed to open their doors, with capacity limits expanded at others.

"I am so excited, I can't, I don't even have words," said Pina Marfisi, owner of Acqua Salon. "It's a great feeling."

"It's amazing, I've been waiting so long and it's fantastic," added a client getting her hair done.

Personal care services are one of a few businesses allowed to open in Step 2 at 25 per cent capacity.

But Marfisi has also made her own rule.

"COVID talk is forbidden in the salons, I've also challenged other salons to go ahead and do the same thing," she said. "Let's talk happy thoughts and no more COVID talk."

Also included is the loosening of capacity limits for essential and non-essential retail. Restaurant patios can how have up to six people per table, up from four.

Indoor gatherings of up to five people are also permitted, while outdoor gatherings of up to 25 are approved.

Outdoor cinemas, performing arts, live music events and attractions can also now operate at 25 per cent capacity.

Stratford, known as the festival city, is expecting an economic boost as most of the province moves into Step 2 of reopening, the city's mayor says.

Under Step 2, the Stratford Festival can begin outdoor performances. Mayor Dan Mathieson said this will also help other sectors of the local economy.

"To know that we're starting to move back towards welcoming people to our community and being able to open those theatres really puts a flag in the ground for us to say 'OK, we can do this,'" he said.

Huron Perth joined the rest of Ontario in moving into Step 2 at 12:01 a.m. on June 30. However, Waterloo Region will stay in Step 1 due to continued spread of the Delta variant in the community.

Ontario's new top doctor also said it's unlikely the province will move into Step 3 early. Dr. Kieran Moore said he'd prefer to wait the 21-day interval before rolling back any more restrictions so the province has a chance to analyze the impact of each step and avoid any backward moves.

Indoor gyms and dining will likely remain closed until July 21.