TORONTO — Ontario will be moving to Step 3 of its economic reopening plan on July 16, nearly five days ahead of schedule, allowing activities such as indoor dining to resume and gyms to open for the first time in months.
The new date was officially announced in a news release around 11:30 a.m. Sources told CTV News Toronto earlier in the day that cabinet met Friday morning to confirm the details.
“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 in order to enter Step Three of our Roadmap,” Premier Doug Ford said in a statement.
“While this is welcome news for everyone who wants a return to normal, we will not slow down our efforts to fully vaccinate everyone who wants to be and put this pandemic behind us once and for all.”
As of 12:01 a.m. on July 16, retailers will be able to host as many customers as can fit while adhering to physical distancing of two metres.
The same capacity restrictions apply to indoor dining for restaurants, indoor religious services and personal care services. There will be no restrictions on the number of people who can sit at the same table inside a restaurant.
Personal care services involving mask removal will be permitted in Step 3.
Food and drink establishments with dance floors will resume operations with a 25 per cent capacity limit up to a maximum of 250 people.
Cinemas, museums, amusement parks,, gyms and recreational fitness facilities will be allowed to operate at 50 per cent capacity.
Sport venues will be able to host spectators again at 50 per cent capacity indoors up to 1,000 people and 75 per cent capacity outdoors up to 15,000 people. Contact team sports will be allowed to resume.
Indoor and outdoor event venues, including concert venues, will be able to operate with a capacity restriction of 50 per cent indoors (with a maximum of 1,000 people) and 75 per cent outdoors (up to 5,000 not seated and 15,000 seated).
Social gatherings and organized public events will be restricted to 25 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.
Strip clubs will be permitted to open without capacity limits as long as a two-meter distance can be maintained between customers and a three-metre distance is maintained between patrons and performers.
Bathhouses and sex clubs will be restricted to a 25 per cent capacity limit or a maximum of 250 people.
Face masks will still be required indoors and where physical distancing is not possible.
Speaking at a news conference on Friday afternoon, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said that he does not anticipate any “regulatory requirements to wear masks” in the fall, but said it will be his recommendation that people continue to do so.
“If we can keep COVID-19 under control, my personal advice as the chief medical officer of health to continue wearing a mask. I’ll certainly wear one on the subway, on a bus, on the train throughout this winter to limit my ability to transmit the virus,” he said.
Ontario was originally scheduled to move to Step 3 on July 21.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER STEP 3?
The province will remain in Step 3 for at least 21 days, officials said.
At least 80 per cent of the eligible population aged 12 and up needs to have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 75 per cent should receive their second dose.
Officials say that in order to move forward, no public health unit should have less than 70 per cent of their population fully vaccinated.
“Upon meeting these thresholds, the vast majority of public health and workplace safety measures, including capacity limits for indoor and outdoor settings and limits for social gatherings, will be lifted,” officials said in a news release.
“Only a small number of measures will remain in place, including the requirement for passive screening, such as posting a sign, and businesses requiring a safety plan.”
As of July 8, more than 77 per cent of people in Ontario aged 12 and up have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and more than 50 per cent have received their second dose. This far surpasses the vaccine milestone required to move to Step 3—between 70 to 80 per cent of adults with one dose and 25 per cent with two doses for at least two weeks.
Moore said that the vaccination goals may be an “ambitious target” but will act as a “call to arms to all Ontarians.”
“I think all of us want to have a return to the post-pandemic world, where we try to live with this virus going into the fall and the safest way we can have that occur is to have the highest immunization rate.”