Ontario Premier Doug Ford responds to a question during his daily update regarding COVID-19 at Queen’s Park in Toronto on Saturday, April 25, 2020. Photo: The Canadian Press/ Tijana Martin
Instead of a hard date many had expected, Premier Ford along with several key ministers outlined criteria that Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and other health experts will use as a basis to begin a staged reopening of Ontario.
Officials must first see a consistent two-to-four week decrease in the number of new daily COVID-19 cases, confirmation that Ontario has sufficient acute and critical care capacity within the healthcare system, and ensuring local public health officials are in touch with 90% of new COVID-19 contacts within one day before advising the provincial government to begin loosening emergency measures.
“Our top priority remains protecting the health and safety of the people of Ontario and supporting our frontline heroes as we do everything in our power to contain and defeat this deadly virus,” said Premier Ford. “At the same time, we are preparing for the responsible restart of our economy. The next phase of our response to COVID-19 is designed to help us map out what needs to be done, and when, to get us back on the road to recovery.
Once the criteria have been met, the reopening of Ontario will occur over three stages while maintaining current physical distancing practices, hand washing, and current protections for vulnerable populations.
The first stage plans for certain closed businesses to reopen with modified operations meeting public health guidance, opening some outdoor spaces like parks, and increasing the number of individuals permitted to gather. Scheduled non-urgent surgeries along with other health care services would begin as well.
The second stage includes the opening of more workplaces, based on risk assessments and may include service industries and additional office and retail workplaces. Further relaxation of larger public gathering restrictions would continue.
The third stage would see remaining workplaces open and the continued removal of public gathering restrictions.
“Turning on an economy after an unprecedented shut-down is not as simple as flipping a switch,” said Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance. “We need to plan this out carefully to ensure we do not spark a sudden outbreak, undo the progress we have made and put the safety of the public at risk.”
The Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee, chaired by Minister Phillips and contains members of the Ontario cabinet representing the various areas of the Ontario economy will be consulting with key sectors in all region of Ontario to assess the impact of COVID-19 on the provincial economy. MPPs across Ontario are expected to do the same.
“In the face of these challenges, businesses and individuals have stepped up to support our frontline workers, produce essential equipment and keep our supply chains moving,” said Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. “Our plan to carefully and methodically reopen Ontario’s economy will ensure that businesses are supported on our path to renewed economic prosperity.”
Most recent information shows a total of 14,856 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 892 deaths and 8,525 recoveries. 424 new cases of COVID were reported Monday along with 57 additional deaths. While this represents a decline in the growth rate of confirmed cases over the past few days, it also represents the highest single-day increase in deaths.
Here in Niagara, as of 12 p.m. yesterday, Niagara had a total of 461 cases, 245 of which are active and 174 have been resolved. There have been 42 deaths as a result of COVID-19. There were 10 new cases reported by public health yesterday and ten on Wednesday. There are still five long-term care homes or retirement homes in Niagara battling a COVID-19 outbreak.
The Niagara Independent will continue to monitor COVID-19 developments as the situation progresses.