Ontario to release clearer guidelines on reopening businesses as the province announces three-phase plan to restart the economy

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced on Tuesday afternoon that his government will be releasing clearer “sector-specific labour” guidelines later this week as the province is developing a framework for restarting the economy following the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Having a clear framework, having well-defined labour guidelines, these are critical steps to opening the economy safely” Premier Doug Ford said to reporters at Queen’s Park. 

These announcements were made after other premiers in the country have officially released their plans and framework to restart the economies in their respective provinces. 

Empathizing with small business owners, Premier Doug Ford stressed in his press conference that the public health restrictions put in place have hit small businesses the hardest and that his government will be doing the best they can to support them.

“Before this crisis they employed millions of Ontarians,” said the Ontario Premier. “It’s my job, it’s our job, to keep them whole and help them adapt to this new normal, this new reality, so when we’re ready to reopen they can hit the ground running.”

“It will give the opportunity to businesses to have a clear guideline when we do open up, what needs to be done to make sure we have a safe working environment for all employees in the province” reemphasized Premier Doug Ford.

Although no further details released today discussing which sectors will be prioritized and what the details of the guidelines are, Premier Doug Ford had said that everyone should “stay tuned” over the next few days. 

Ontario’s three-phase plan to reopen the province amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

This past Monday, the province unveiled its three-phase plan to allow the province to reopen gradually amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

The plan was announced following the decisions of Premiers in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick which had announced their reopening plans last week. 

 “This framework provides a roadmap for people and businesses, so they know what to look for as the province moves forward,” outlined the document released by the Government of Ontario. “Together, Ontario will emerge from this crisis – with a clear path to economic recovery that keeps people safe and healthy.”

PHASE ONE: PROTECT AND SUPPORT

Believe it or not, Phase One of the three-phased plan is already underway. In the first phase, it focuses on protecting the health and well-being of individuals and families, as well as supporting frontline health-care workers.  

Additionally, this phase focuses on implementing emergency orders that shutdown non-essential workplaces, outdoor amenities at parks, recreational areas and public places, as well as putting restrictions on social gathering. 

The $17-billion “Ontarios Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19” previously announced on March 25, 2020 is a part of this phase. 

PHASE TWO: RESTART

Phase two of the plan is broken down into three smaller stages to ensure that the province is taking a careful approach to loosen emergency measures and reopen Ontario’s economy. 

In this phase, the government outlined that public health and workplace safety will remain the top priority in addition to balancing the needs of people and businesses. 

A breakdown of the three stages outlined in Phase Two are as follows: 

Stage One: Open select workplaces allowing some small gatherings

  • Businesses that can “immediately meet or modify operations” to meet public health guidance will be allowed to reopen. For example, businesses that can conduct curbside pickup or delivery
  • Opening some outdoor spaces, such as parks, and allowing for “greater number of individuals” to attend some events, such as funerals 
  • Hospitals begin to offer some non-urgent surgeries and other health-care services

Stage Two: Open more workplaces and outdoor spaces, allowing some larger gatherings

  • May include some service industries and additional office and retail workplaces 

Stage Three: Further relax restrictions on public gatherings, opening all workplaces

  • Large public gatherings, such as concerts and sporting events will continue to be restricted for the “foreseeable future” 

At each of these stages, health officials will be monitoring the situation on a two-to-four week period and may advise the government based upon the situation. Health officials may advise the government to:  

  • Reapply or tighten certain public health measures
  • Maintain status quo
  • Progress to the next stage. 

“This ongoing gradual assessment of public health measures will continue until the post-pandemic period when a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 is available” stated the document.

PHASE THREE: RECOVER

In the final phase of the plan, Ontario will be transitioning to a “new normal” and focus on creating jobs across the province while ensuring that workplaces continue to follow health and safety guidelines. 

Premier Doug Ford reiterated that remote “work from home” arrangements should continue for businesses that can do so.

“This is a roadmap, not a calendar”

During his update from Queen’s Park on Monday afternoon, Premier Doug Ford emphasized that the proposed three-phase plan is more of a roadmap for the province rather than a calendar of events.

He stated that the framework only outlines how the province plans to reopen not when it will reopen. 

“Let me be crystal clear, as long as this virus remains a threat to Ontario, we will continue to take every precaution necessary. We will continue to act based on the best advice that is available to us” said the Ontario Premier.

“If precautions are not taken then one person with this virus can spread it to hundreds of others,” he added. “My friends, our future is in our hands because through our actions, by taking the advice seriously, by doing our part, we will determine when things open up again.”

“The steps we are taking are working, but progress doesn’t mean we can quit now.” 

Photo Credits: THE CANADIAN PRESS

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