TORONTO – Yes, you can go get a hair cut two days earlier than planned. The Ontario government announced this morning at the province will move into Step Two of its reopening plan on June 30.
Officials cite improving COVID-19 infection numbers, lower hospitalizations and ICU numbers, and having already met vaccination benchmarks for Step Three, as the reason for announcing the reopening two days earlier than planned. Step Two was to begin on July 2.
“We are proceeding safely with the re-opening of our province and will continue to work around the clock until the job is done,” Premier Doug Ford said in a release.
Ontario also announced its fourth consecutive day in a row of fewer than 300 new COVID-19 infections. According to the government, there has been nearly a 25 per cent drop in the provincial case rate during the first week after entering Step One of the plan. On June 22 there were fewer than 300 COVID-19 patients in hospital ICUs, a decrease of one-third in two weeks.
Deputy Premier and Health Minister Christine Elliott said the continued improvement in key indicators and significant first-dose vaccinations are what has allowed the early move.
“Thank you to the Ontarians who rolled up their sleeves to help us reach this exciting milestone,” she said. “Every dose administered brings us one step closer to the things we’ve missed, so please sign up to receive the vaccine when it’s your turn.”
The early announcement gives businesses time to plan to reopen further, or in some cases, begin to reopen. That includes personal care services like hair cuts, and being able to attend outdoor venues.
What is opening and what can you do?
Beginning June 30, outdoor social gatherings and public events of up to 25 people are allowed and indoor gatherings or events of up to five people can take place.
Essential retail like grocery stores and pharmacies will increase from 25 to 50 per cent occupancy allowed, and non-essential retail occupancy increases from 15 to 25 per cent.
Personal care service where a face covering is worn all the time will open at 25 per cent capacity. There are other unspecified restrictions to personal care services not included in the government’s announcement.
Outdoor dining can increase to six people per table, with an exception to allow more than six people in a household. The six people limit is not restricted to people of the same household.
If you want to go to an outdoor concert, theatre, or movie in the park, you can. Spectators are allowed at 25 per cent the normal capacity. This also applies to horse racing and race tracks, outdoor fairs and festivals, and professional sports facilities.
Overnight camps for children can begin, so long as the camp is following safety guidelines issued by the Chief Medical Officer of Health for the province.
Outdoor fitness classes can expand beyond the initial 10 person limit from Step One. An unlimited number of people are allowed as long as those taking part maintain a three metre physical space.
Sports leagues can begin again if the sport is without contact, or has modified to avoid contact. There are no limits on the number of participants, teams or leagues. Spectators to those are limited to 25 per cent. Other unspecified restrictions are also in place.
Indoor religious services including weddings and funerals are allowed up to 25 per cent capacity of a room when the province reopens further on June 30.
The province is set to remain in Step Two for 21 days as the vaccination effort continues. The earliest Ontario could go into Step Three is July 20. Ontario began Step One of its three-step plan two days early on June 11.