Ontario has unveiled a three-step reopening plan to allow businesses to reopen as certain vaccination thresholds are reached, while some outdoor activities will be able to restart on May 22.
Premier Doug Ford outlined the plan at a press conference Thursday, saying the reopening will have to be "done slowly and with extreme caution."
"The reality is, COVID-19 remains a significant threat to us," Ford said.
"We all want to open up a lot sooner, but we can't. We have to be cautious. Let's move slowly."
While the first step of Ontario's "Roadmap to Reopen" is not expected to begin for a few weeks, the province will allow outdoor amenities including golf courses and tennis courts to reopen over the weekend. Starting Saturday, outdoor gathering limits will also be expanded to five people.
The first step of the reopening plan requires 60 per cent of adults in Ontario to be vaccinated with at least one dose. Once that threshold is reached, outdoor gatherings for up to 10 people will be allowed, non-essential retail capacity would reopen at 15 per cent capacity, and outdoor dining would be allowed for up to four people per table. Day camps, provincial parks, campsites, outdoor pools and splash pads would also be able to reopen.
Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott expects the province will enter the first phase of the plan the week of June 14.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), a lobby group representing small businesses across the country, said it was “deeply disappointed” that the province would not allow an immediate reopening of “low-risk business activities, like shopping at small retailers, visiting hair and nail salons, gyms, and patio dining at restaurants.”
“Ontario’s reopening plan reads more like a plan to ensure the province is the last jurisdiction in the continent to allow even a trickle of business activity to resume,” CFIB president Dan Kelly said in a statement released Thursday.
“This is not the glimmer of hope that many small businesses were desperate to see.”
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has come out in support of the province's reopening plan, calling it "a pragmatic approach that will improve predictability for Ontario business."
"We are pleased to see the government use evidence-based metrics and thresholds to indicate when Ontario will move from one stage of reopening to the next," OCC president and chief executive Rocco Rossi said in a statement.
"This will provide businesses with a runway for operational planning."
Other activities permitted under step one include:
Outdoor fitness classes, personal training, sports training for a maximum of 10 people, keeping 3-metres distance
Film production with no more than 50 performers on set
Horse racing, motorsports and speedways with capacity and crew restrictions, but no spectators allowed
Weddings, funerals, and religious services with 10 people indoors or outdoor capacity limited to space that allows physical distancing
Outdoor zoos, landmarks, historic sites, botanical gardens and similar attractions with reduced capacity
The second step can be implemented only after at least 21 days has passed in step one, and requires 70 per cent of adults in Ontario to be vaccinated with one dose, and 20 per cent to be fully vaccinated. Under that phase, large outdoor gathering will be allowed for up to 25 people, while small indoor gathering will be allowed for up to five people. Non-essential retailers' capacity would increase to 25 per cent. Outdoor amusements parks, water parks, sports leagues, cinemas and live music venues would also be able to reopen.
The final phase, also at least 21 days following implementation of the previous step, requires 70 to 80 per cent of adults to be vaccinated with one dose, and 25 per cent to be fully vaccinated. Indoor dining would be allowed, and most indoor venues would be able to reopen.
Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.