Stage One of Ontario’s businesses reopening begins today as coronavirus restrictions loosen

Tuesday some of Ontario’s businesses will be allowed to reopen their doors after a two-month closure due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Announced by the Ford government last week, the province is starting the first stage of its economic reopening, allowing all construction, certain health and medical services, seasonal and recreational activities, and household and animal services can now resume operations.

Retail stores, outside of shopping malls, that have street access can also resume, provided they can maintain physical distancing measures.

The provincial government has stressed that those businesses still have to comply with strict health measures put in place with stores limiting the number of people allowed inside and physical distancing enforced.

The reopening of these stores will prove to be a test for Ontario, as the preparedness and timing of this decision may affect the progression the province has made with combating the spread of COVID-19.

Virus’ activity in the province and whether or not it trends in a positive direction will affect the timing of the economy fully reopening, as Premier Doug Ford stated in last week’s provincial address.

“The truth is we can’t fully predict where things will go, so we need to be ready to react if we see a sudden increase in cases,” Ford said regarding the plans should any outbreaks or increases occur during the first reopening phase.

Despite the fact that the number of cases overall is starting to decrease, health officials urge that everyone be responsible and exhibit proper health precautions as the economy slowly reopens. 

Western University professor and chair of epidemiology and biostatistics, Dr. Saverio Stranges, said on Monday, May 18, that right now the transition the world is taking in terms of reopening the economy is “critical” and that caution needs to be taken.

“We need to be careful, especially in indoor spaces, to avoid gatherings of a large number of people with long duration of contact between people.”

Health experts have also stated that there is still evidence of some community spread, meaning the danger of infection will remain for the foreseeable future.

The province also announced Tuesday that it will launch an independent commission into the province’s long-term care system in the fall. Long-term care facilities have been the site of several devastating, deadly outbreaks in Ontario and several other provinces, including Quebec, British Columbia, Alberta, and Nova Scotia.

When can Stage 2 begin?

Based on what the provincial leaders have said before the reopenings of stores and services, a timeline for when stage two of this reopening plan has not been set and will remain unset as health officials monitor the changes in Covid-19 case numbers during this time.

Each phase of the reopening should last two to four weeks, so the results of the first phase and the timeline of when the second should commence will be determined by the success of this current phase Ontario is in.

According to Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips, reaching public health goals will ultimately influence the timing of the next phase.

“We said that framework was a roadmap, not a schedule… These dates will be tied to achieving certain public health metrics”.

Phillips also acknowledges that Ontarians are still concerned about the virus spread and that the government has “to continue to do things that inspire their confidence”.

“None of us have had to turn on an economy before so we’re learning through this together, but I do have ultimately a lot of confidence in the resilience of Ontario business people and Ontarians, in general, to come through this.”

As of May 19, Canada recorded a total of 79,077 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 39,976 recoveries and 5,909 deaths reported.

Ontario reported 427 new confirmed cases today, May 19, and adds 15 deaths, bringing the province’s total to 23,384 confirmed cases of Covid-19, including 17,898 recoveries and 1,919 deaths. There are now 3,567 active cases in Ontario.

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