Outdoor dining returns Friday as Ontario enters Step 1 of reopening 3 days early

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TORONTO -- Ontario will move into Step 1 of its economic reopening plan on Friday, three days ahead of schedule, based on the provincewide vaccination rate and improvements in health indicators.

A statement from the Premier’s Office said the current situation in Ontario is “exceeding the best-case scenario” in recent modelling, which indicated that the province would reach below 1,000 new daily infections by June 30.

The government previously said that they would likely enter Step 1 on June 14, but instead will begin the reopening at midnight on June 11.

Prior to the province’s official announcement, Health Minister Christine Elliott told CTV News Toronto in a brief interview on Monday that Premier Doug Ford will meet with a cabinet committee on Monday to review data and make an initial decision, which will likely have to be ratified by the entire cabinet this week.

Hours later, the decision was made official.

In a statement, Elliott said, “While this is exciting news, as we move to enter Step 1 of Ontario’s Roadmap it remains critical that all Ontarians continue to follow public health advice and roll up their sleeves to receive the vaccine.”

Ontario achieved the main target of vaccinating 60 per cent of the adult population with the initial dose on May 21, according to the Premier's Office, but needed to wait at least two weeks to allow recipients to build up a sufficient level of immunity.

As of June 6, 72 per cent of the 18 plus population in Ontario had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 10 million doses were administered.

The province has also seen a steady decline in new daily cases, 525 reported on Monday, and ICU occupancy has also decreased to 498 COVID-19 patients. The province said between May 25 and May 31, Ontario’s COVID-19 case rate dropped 35.1 per cent.

“Overall, the situation in Ontario is steadily improving,” said Dr. David Williams, Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health.

“This has been a good direction over the last number of weeks and we’re seeing the fruits of activity, both of the vaccinations’ first dose and now second doses, as well as people continually adhering to public health measures,” he said.

STEP 1 OF REOPENING

Step 1 allows for Ontario to relax restrictions mainly involving outdoor activities.

Outdoor gathering limits will increase to 10 people and patios can reopen. Restaurants can return to their normal hours of liquor service, Monday to Sunday 9 a.m. to 2 a.m., according to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.

The province said there will be no capacity limits on outdoor patios, but tables must be 2-metres apart, and a maximum of four people can be seated together, unless they are part of the same household. One person who lives alone, or a caregiver, can be added.

While Step 1 of the province’s reopening plan will allow in-person shopping at non-essential retail, with strict capacity limits, it will continue to keep malls shuttered. Only stores featuring street-front entrances will be permitted to open.

“What we're doing with stage one is moving safely to more outdoor types of activities,” Elliott told CP24 following the Ford government announcement. “We know that they're safer and the same thing with retail establishments, if there's a direct access to the outdoors, that is safer than having people congregate within a mall."

Also, indoor religious services, including weddings and funerals, are permitted at 15 per cent capacity.

Day camps will be allowed to operate, along with overnight camping grounds at provincial parks. Fitness classes and sports training are permitted with up to 10 people outdoors. But, sports games are not allowed. 

Concert venues, theatres and cinemas can open outdoors, but only for rehearsals or performing a recorded concert with no more than 10 performers.

For at least 21-days, the province will remain in Step 1 of the reopening plan before entering Step 2. In order to move forward, the province says 70 per cent of adults must be vaccinated with one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 20 per cent will need to have received two doses.​

“While we have reached the point where we can safely move into Step 1, now is not the time to get complacent,” said Dr. Williams. “We must all remain vigilant.”

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