Those hoping for a haircut this weekend will be disappointed to learn that while Ontario may enter Step 2 of the reopening plan ahead of schedule, it likely won’t be happening before next week.
Sources confirm to CTV News Toronto that Premier Doug Ford’s cabinet is considering bumping up Step 2 of the province’s three-step reopening plan to June 30, two days earlier than expected.
When asked about the prospect of Ontario heading into the next phase early, Ford told reporters Wednesday that discussions are underway but noted that it will be “a matter of days” and not a full week as some had hoped.
“I know Minister Elliott is working with Dr. Williams to come up with a date,” Ford said on Wednesday.
“They’ll be coming out with an announcement very shortly. This is all due to the vaccinations going extremely well.”
The province previously said that Ontario would advance to Step 2 on July 2, 21 days after entering Step 1 of the Ford government’s “reopening roadmap.” Under Step 2, personal care services, including salons and barbershops, can reopen with capacity limits and outdoor amusement and water parks can also open for the season. Outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people will be permitted as well as indoor gatherings of up to five people. Indoor dining and gyms must remain closed until Step 3 of the reopening plan.
Ford’s comments today are in line with what Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams told The Toronto Star on Tuesday.
Williams told the newspaper that he is “optimistic” that the province could open “a few days early.”
The Ford government previously said that it would like at least 70 per cent of all adults with one dose of a vaccine and 20 per cent with two doses before entering Step 2 of the reopening plan. To enter Step 3, which is expected to occur 21 days after Ontario enters Step 2, the province wants 70 to 80 per cent with one dose and 25 per cent of adults with two shots.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said Wednesday that more than 25 per cent of adults have now been fully vaccinated and the province has also confirmed that more than 75 per cent have received one shot, meaning that Ontario has already surpassed the vaccination thresholds set out for the final stage of reopening.
Speaking to CP24 on Wednesday morning, infectious diseases specialist Dr. Abdu Sharkawy said accelerating Ontario’s reopening timeline could be done safely even with the growing number of Delta variant cases in the mix.
“I think there is certainly a sweet spot that we can approach and we are going at a very, very cautious pace right now, maybe to a fault quite frankly,” Sharkawy told CP24 on Wednesday morning.
“I think that if we are looking at the metrics that matter the most… I think everything is really moving in a very good direction and there is no reason to believe why we can’t open up a little bit more quickly.”
Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said he would “love to see” salons and barbershops open as early as today.
“I’ve continued to plead with the province that this sector has been hit really hard. I’m hearing answers from Queen’s Park that they’re actively considering this, and I hope it comes soon,” he said during a news conference on Wednesday morning.
“I really believe that it’s time to let people get their cuts and this is a sector we’ve seen 20 per cent of these businesses go under. It’s tough and I want to see them back on their feet.”
Mayor John Tory has said he supports reopening more businesses a bit early if it can be done safely.
“I would like to see that reopening safely occur as soon as possible,” he told reporters on Wednesday.
“I also do think there was a plan in place that was set out by the province. I think it was widely commended by people as being a sensible, clear, consistent plan and that plan should be the guide…. The ultimate decision as you know rests with the province.”
Ryan Mallough, a spokesperson for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said the province should not wait to enter Step 3.
“We have crossed the thresholds that the province set out… to hit Stage 3,” he told CP24 on Wednesday.
“So we are looking to the government now to bring stage 3 in with stage 2 so we can get more businesses, like indoor dining and gyms, open sooner and back to creating some revenue.”