Ontario doubling limit on gatherings, more businesses to reopen in next phase of COVID-19 recovery plan

Ontarians will soon be allowed to gather in groups of up to 10 and many more businesses and services will be allowed to begin operating again as part of the next phase of the province’s regional reopening, set to begin in some areas later this week.

Premier Doug Ford outlined the details of Phase 2 of Ontario’s plan to lift restrictions on its lockdown, implemented to help curb the spread of COVID-19, at his daily briefing Monday afternoon.

Twenty-four of Ontario’s 34 public health units will be allowed to move into Phase 2 on Friday. The remaining 10, concentrated primarily in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) and near the U.S.-Canada border, will need to wait until new daily case numbers consistently decrease.

In addition to increasing the size of social gatherings from five to 10, the government says places of worship in regions allowed to go into the next phase will be able to welcome congregants again with a 30 per cent capacity limit. Both changes also take effect on Friday throughout the province, regardless of public health unit.

In areas allowed to move into the next phase, restaurants, bars and food trucks will be able to open for outdoor dining on patios and in parking lots or adjacent premises. The province is allowing licensed establishments to set up or expand their outdoor eating spaces without an application fee to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.

This map shows the public health regions in Ontario that will be allowed to move into the next phase of reopening on Friday. (Government of Ontario)

Attorney General Doug Downey said the move will give the hospitality sector more tools to be able to recover, and will help ensure physical distancing. The measures for patios will still be subject to municipal approval and will be in place until Jan. 1. The new or expanded patios will have to be adjacent to the bar or restaurant and the capacity doesn’t exceed 1.11 square metres per person.

Here is a list of businesses and services allowed to reopen in regions entering Stage 2:

  • Select personal and personal care services with the proper health and safety measures in place, including tattoo parlours, barber shops, hair salons and beauty salons;
  • Shopping malls under existing restrictions, including food services reopening for takeout and outdoor dining only;
  • Tour and guide services, such as biking and walking, bus and boat tours, as well as tastings and tours for wineries, breweries and distilleries;
  • Water recreational facilities such as outdoor splash pads and wading pools, and all swimming pools;
  • Beach access and additional camping at Ontario Parks;
  • Camping at private campgrounds;
  • Outdoor-only recreational facilities and training for outdoor team sports, with limits to enable physical distancing;
  • Drive-in and drive-through venues for theatres, concerts, animal attractions and cultural appreciation, such as art installations;
  • Film and television production activities, with limits to enable physical distancing; and
  • Weddings and funerals, with limits on social gatherings to 10 people.

Child care services will shift away from providing solely emergency services throughout the province, regardless of what phase each region is in, allowing for a gradual reopening of regular service. The province says there will be a limit on operational capacity and other strict public health measures that will need to stay in place.

Ford said more information will be announced on Tuesday.

Province to implement commercial eviction ban

During the briefing, Ford announced that Ontario will ban commercial evictions starting June 3 until the end of August as business owners struggle with the fallout of the pandemic.

Ford said the moratorium applies to small businesses who qualify for the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program, where their revenues have dropped at least 70 per cent due to the pandemic.

Ontario joins British Columbia, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia as provinces that have implemented some form of a commercial eviction ban.

Last month, five business groups co-signed an open letter calling for the Ontario government to impose a commercial eviction moratorium during the pandemic, warning that many small- and medium-sized businesses were at risk of closing as June rent came due.

The organizations included the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Ontario Chamber of Commerce, Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association, Restaurants Canada and the Retail Council of Canada.

Ford had previously resisted a push from groups representing small business owners for a temporary ban, instead appealing on several occasions for landlords to “have a heart” and allow for grace periods on rent fees.

On Monday, Ford said some landlords have not been listening to his appeal, prompting the province to order this legislation.

“Our small business owners are the backbone of our communities and now more than ever, we all need to support them,” Ford said.

243 new COVID-19 cases

The news comes as Ontario reported 243 additional cases of COVID-19 on Monday.

The 0.8 per cent jump brings the total number of cases in Ontario to 30,860 since the outbreak began in January. Around 79.4 per cent of all cases are now resolved.

The new cases come after just 192 were confirmed on Sunday, though the Ministry of Health added 223 that were impacted by a delay in reporting to the day’s count.

Eighteen of the province’s 34 public health units reported no new cases today, while 10 more reported fewer than five. More than two-thirds of active COVID-19 cases are concentrated in the Greater Toronto Area.

Meanwhile, the province’s network of labs processed 15,357 tests, below the benchmark of 16,000. Test numbers have typically dropped on Sundays throughout the pandemic period. The backlog of tests waiting to be processed sits at 4,811.

Ontario’s official COVID-19 death toll increased by 24 and currently sits at 2,450. A CBC News count based on data from regional public health units puts the real toll at 2,490 as of last evening.


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