A large swath of Ontario will be moving on to the next phase of the provincial government’s COVID-19 recovery plan today.
Stage 3 of the reopening effort takes effect across 24 out of 34 public health units, though the jurisdictions that will keep operating under Stage 2 rules are among the busiest in the province.
Earlier this week, the government announced Stage 3 rules would allow restaurants to resume indoor service, as well as businesses such as bars, gyms and theatres to start welcoming patrons again.
The rules also raise the limits on the size of indoor gatherings to a maximum of 50 people, while as many as 100 people are allowed to congregate outdoors.
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The new rules don’t yet apply in the greater Toronto and Hamilton areas, the Niagara region and Windsor-Essex, all of which are still trying to reduce the numbers of local COVID-19 cases.
But Premier Doug Ford says the next phase of economic recovery suggests the province is turning a corner after feeling the ravages of the global pandemic.
“All of Ontario is now on the path to recovery,” Ford said Thursday at a news conference in Chatham, Ont. “…I won’t stop until every person, every worker, every community and every farmer in Ontario is back on their feet.”
Ford has not yet offered a timeline as to when the rest of Ontario can enter Stage 3, but has promised weekly updates on the issue. The province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, previously said he hopes to see the entire province entering the next phase of reopening by the end of July.
But not all businesses cleared to open their doors will be greeting customers on Friday.
Cineplex Entertainment, Canada’s largest chain of movie theatres, announced it does not plan to resume operations immediately.
“We are still reviewing what’s being proposed by the province, so as a result we aren’t in a position to open our theatres in Ontario on Friday,” spokeswoman Sarah Van Lange said in a statement. “While we are certainly excited for the day our operations can resume, our top priority has always been the health and safety of our employees and guests and ensuring that their time with us is safe, comfortable and welcoming.”
Van Lange did not indicate when theatres may reopen.
The Cine Starz chain, however, has said its locations in Ottawa and Orleans will be open for business. A company statement indicated locations west of Toronto would reopen as soon as Stage 3 rules take effect in the region.
The government rules for Stage 3 state that any businesses resuming operations must maintain physical distancing measures for the safety of both patrons and staff.