Ontario’s stay-at-home order is set to expire Wednesday, but the province says most public health and workplace restrictions will remain in place until it officially enters the first step of its reopening plan.
The stay-at-home order will expire on June 2, but in accordance with its reopening strategy, existing restrictions on gathering, businesses, services and activities will remain in effect provincewide for the time being.
That includes limiting outdoor gatherings to up to five people, limiting essential retail capacity to 25 per cent, restricting non-essential retail to curbside pick-up and delivery only, limiting short-term rentals to those who need housing only and limiting Ontario Parks and public campgrounds to day-use only.
Indoor gatherings remain prohibited.
“Ontarians will be able to leave home to travel within the province to a secondary residence for any reason, however, they are not be permitted to host members of another household indoors except for a person from another household who lives alone or a caregiver,” the province said in a news release.
At a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Health Minister Christine Elliott was asked about the possibility of reopening earlier than the projected date of June 14. She said while the target vaccination rate had been achieved — with 60 per cent of adult Ontarians having received their first dose — other public health measures had to be taken into consideration.
Those include the number of hospitalized patients, the number of ICU admissions and the base reproduction number or “R” rate, that shows how the virus spreads from person to person.
“We’re anticipating we’ll hit the milestones by June 14, we do not anticipate it will be later,” Elliott said. “Whether we hit those markers sooner remains to be seen.”
“We’ve been advised that the targets we’ve set out are both realistic and achievable,” the health minister added.
Meanwhile, Ontario reported 699 additional cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday — the fewest on a single day since October 2020, during the earlier weeks of the second wave of the pandemic in the province.
Ontarians will have choice as to their 2nd shot: health minister
The news comes as the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) said that Canadians who received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine can safely receive an mRNA vaccine, such as Pfizer or Moderna, for their second.
For Canadians who have had a first dose of Moderna or Pfizer, NACI advised they can now take either of the two shots as a second dose — because they both use a similar mRNA technology.
Officials in Ontario suggested at a briefing last week that they want to move ahead with mixing vaccines to maintain the progress of the immunization effort, but said they were waiting for formal guidance from NACI before going forward.
Elliott said Tuesday that Ontarians who received a first shot of AstraZeneca will have a choice about their second shot.
She also said that she expects the 254,500 doses of AstraZeneca the province currently has will be shipped out to pharmacies and primary care physicians soon for use as second shots, and that people seem eager to receive it.
“We haven’t seen any vaccine hesitancy for AstraZeneca when it comes to second doses,” Elliott said. “They want to take it.”
Fewest new cases since mid-October
The case count reported today marks the second straight day in Ontario below 1,000, and is down considerably from last Tuesday’s total of 1,039
Labs completed 20,262 tests and Public Health Ontario logged a positivity rate of 3.6 per cent, also down significantly from last Tuesday’s 6.2 per cent.
Just Toronto and Peel Region saw triple-digit increases in cases, with 207 and 144, respectively.
The seven-day average fell to 1,030, its lowest point since February 20. At the height of the third wave in Ontario, the seven-day average climbed to nearly 4,400.
As of Monday, there were 583 people with COVID-related illnesses being treated in intensive care. Of those, 387, or roughly 66 per cent, needed a ventilator to breathe.
The Ministry of Health recorded the deaths of nine more people with the illness, pushing the official toll to 8,766.
Public health units collectively administered another 120,195 doses of COVID-19 vaccines yesterday. About 57.4 per cent of Ontario’s total population has now had at least one shot.
CFIB urges earlier reopening, in line with other provinces
Meanwhile, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business has written a letter to Premier Doug Ford in which it urges the province to reopen immediately in an effort to save businesses from “being forced to shutter their doors permanently.”
CFIB wants the province to open all retailers at a minimum of 20 per cent capacity, open restaurant patios and allow for limited indoor service, allow hair salons and barbershops to open by appointment, and allow gyms and other recreational activities to open by appointment.
CFIB insists the province announce earlier reopening dates “in line with other provinces,” allow for regions with lower cases and hospitalizations to reopen sooner and provide a third round of the Ontario Small Business Support Grant to more businesses.