Coronavirus: Ontario to enter Step 2 of reopening plan ahead of schedule, on June 30

Coronavirus: Hundreds more COVID-19 cases reported in Middlesex-London
Coronavirus: Hundreds more COVID-19 cases reported in Middlesex-London

Ontario will move into the second stage of its reopening plan next Wednesday, a few days ahead of schedule.

That means hair salons and similar facilities can reopen with mask requirements and capacity rules, and limits on gatherings will be rolled back further.

Outdoor attractions like water parks can reopen, outdoor performances and team sports can resume and small indoor gatherings of up to five people are permitted.

“Because of the tireless work of our health care heroes, and the record setting success of our vaccine rollout, we are able to move into Step 2 ahead of schedule on June 30 with the support of our public health experts,” Premier Doug Ford said in a statement.

The changes will take effect at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday.

That stage of the plan was set to take effect on July 2 but COVID-19 vaccination targets have already been surpassed.

Other health indicators have also improved since strict measures took effect in April to control the third wave of COVID-19.

With more than 76 per cent of adults vaccinated with one dose, and 24 per cent fully vaccinated, Ontario has already met targets for the third step of the reopening plan, which will see indoor activities expand further.

But the province said it’s sticking with its plan of remaining in Step 2 for “approximately 21 days” so vaccines can take full effect and other health indicators can be monitored.

“While we can now begin preparing to ease public health measures … the fight against COVID-19 is not over and we must continue adhering to the public health advice and measures currently in place to maintain this great progress,” said Dr. David Williams, the province’s top doctor.

Williams held his final pandemic news conference as Ontario’s chief medical officer of the health on Thursday, joined by his successor, Dr. Kieran Moore, who will officially take over the job on June 26.

Waterloo Region, which is battling a surge in cases driven by the more infectious Delta variant, will not advance to Step 2 with the rest of the province next week.

The region’s top doctor said Thursday the move is meant to “avoid having to take a step back” and to allow residents have more time to be vaccinated, with a possible further reopening in mid-July.

“This approach gives us the best chance to hold onto the gains we have made,” Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang said in a statement.

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