Ontario has officially entered Step 3 of the province’s economic reopening plan.
The changes went into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Friday and mean indoor dining can resume, and gyms and movie theatres are allowed to reopen.
The move to a revised Step 3 was announced by the Ford government last week and comes five days ahead of schedule.
There are no capacity or table limits for indoor dining – but social distancing rules will remain in place and masks will remain mandatory.
Outdoor social gatherings and organized public events with up to 100 people are permitted, as well as indoor social gatherings and organized public events with up to 25 people.
Gyms, movie theatres, museums and zoos are allowed to operate at a 50 percent capacity.
Outdoor non-seated events of up to 5,000 people are also allowed. Outdoor seated events will have a capacity of 15,000 people.
Indoor events can happen at 50 percent capacity with a limit of 1,000 people. Nightclubs can operate at a capacity of 250 people or 25 percent.
There are no more restrictions on retail or personal care as long as social distancing is in place.
Chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore says some restrictions, like face coverings, will remain mandatory.
“We will continue to evaluate the requirement and need for indoor face coverings on an ongoing basis,” said Dr. Moore. “Physical distancing requirement will remain in place for Step 3 but it is an exciting day for Ontario.”
What else is allowed under Ontario’s revised Step 3:
- Personal care services, including services requiring the removal of a face covering, with capacity limited to the number of people that can maintain a physical distance of two metres;
- Museums, galleries, historic sites, aquariums, zoos, landmarks, botanical gardens, science centres, casinos/bingo halls, amusement parks, fairs and rural exhibitions, festivals, with capacity limited to not exceed 50 percent capacity indoors and 75 percent capacity outdoors;
- Concert venues, cinemas, and theatres permitted to operate at up to 50 percent capacity indoors or a maximum limit of 1,000 people for seated events (whichever is less)
- Up to 75 percent capacity outdoors or a maximum limit of 5,000 people for unseated events (whichever is less); and up to 75 percent capacity outdoors or a maximum of 15,000 people for events with fixed seating (whichever is less).
- Real estate open houses with capacity limited to the number of people that can maintain a physical distance of two metres; and
- Indoor food or drink establishments where dance facilities are provided, including nightclubs and resto-bars, permitted up to 25 percent capacity or up to a maximum limit of 250 people (whichever is less).
Restrictions are being rolled back ahead of schedule thanks to positive pandemic trends and climbing vaccination rates – as of Thursday, 79 percent of adult Ontarians had received one COVID-19 vaccine dose and 59 percent had two shots.
The Ford government said last week that the province will remain in Step 3 for at least 21 days and until 80 percent of the eligible population aged 12 and over has received one vaccine dose and 75 percent have received their second, with no public health unit having less than 70 percent of their population fully vaccinated.
“Thanks to the tireless efforts of our frontline heroes, and the ongoing commitment of Ontarians to get vaccinated, we have surpassed the targets we set to enter Step Three of our Roadmap,” said Premier Doug Ford.
Premier Ford was asked Thursday if he can guarantee that there will be no more lockdowns in September and said: “nothing is 100 percent.”
On Wednesday, Dr. Moore said that while indicators remain promising in the province, he “absolutely expects a rise in COVID activity in September.”
Most of the province entered Step 2 of the Ford government’s plan on June 30 – two days earlier than originally scheduled.
The move to Step 2 allowed barbers, salons and personal care services to resume. Capacity limits for retail stores and patios also expanded.
The province said last week that since entering Step 2, from June 29 to July 5, the provincial case rate decreased by 23.3 percent.
As of July 14, the number of patients with COVID-19 complications in the ICUs had dropped to 180, the lowest number since November.
The province’s daily COVID-19 case count has remained steadily low in recent weeks, however, likely as a direct result of high vaccination rates.
As of Wednesday, Ontario’s seven-day average for new infections is down to 164, the lowest point since Sept. 9.
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