Published Monday, April 27, 2020 7:28AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, April 27, 2020 2:09PM EDT
The provincial government's framework, which was released on Monday afternoon, indicates that businesses and outdoor spaces will reopen in three stages and could begin with parks and "select workplaces" that can "immediately meet or modify operations" to adhere to public health directives.
The resumption of some non-urgent and scheduled surgeries will also be part of the first stage of reopening.
The specific sectors that will be permitted to open first were not identified in the province's plan and the province did not provide an anticipated date for when the first stage will begin.
Speaking at a news conference at Queen's Park, Ford said the province will not set "hard dates" until it is ready "because the virus travels at its own speed."
Ontario Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade Vic Fedeli said Monday that the framework is a “roadmap” and not a “calendar."
The second stage of the province's plan will look at reopening some service industries as well as additional office and retail workplaces and larger public gatherings will also be considered.
The final stage, the province says, will examine reopening all workplaces "responsibly."
While the province will look at further relaxing restrictions on public gatherings at the third stage, the document notes that activities like concerts and sporting events will "continue to be restricted for the forseeable future."
"As public health measures are lifted and as economic activity resumes, the public will need to continue to maintain physical distancing and hand washing, along with self-isolation when experiencing COVID-19 symptoms," the province's document read, adding that remote work arrangements should continue where possible.
"The ongoing, gradual assessment of public health measures will continue until the until the post-pandemic period when a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 is available. The stages approach reflects Ontario's new normal."
In order to ease restrictions, the province states that Ontario will need to see a "consistent" two to four-week decrease in the number of new daily COVID-19 cases as well as a decrease in the rate of cases that cannot be traced to a specific source. Ontario will also need to experience a decrease in the number of new cases in hospitals, the province says.
The provincial document also indicates that "in the coming days" the Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee and MPPs will be meeting with business associations, chambers of commerce, the post-secondary sector, small business owners and others, to discuss the plan.
"This will enable Ontario to better understand the unique impacts of COVID-19 that each region and each sector is facing, as well as what they need to succeed as Ontario progresses through the stages of reopening toward the recovery phase."
Over the past three days, Ontario has seen a decline in the number of new cases of COVID-19 each day.
The province reported 424 new cases of COVID-19 and 57 more deaths on Monday. The total number of cases in Ontario is now 14,856, including 892 deaths and 8,525 recoveries.
All of the emergency orders issued by the province, including one ordering the closure of non-essential businesses, remain in effect until at least May 6.
“There is no one out there that wants to move forward on the economy more than I do. But we’d rather be safe than sorry. People are going to have to hang in there,” Ford said last week.
A number of other provinces have already released their plans to restart their economies.
Saskatchewan put out a five-phase plan last week that will start on May 4 with the opening of medical services. The plan then calls for the reopening of golf courses by May 15, retail and personal care services by May 19, and parks and campgrounds by June 1.
There is no date associated with Phase 3 of Saskatchewan’s framework, which includes opening things like restaurants, gyms, and child care facilities.
In New Brunswick, meanwhile, the province has announced the loosening of physical distancing guidelines to allow for two-household gatherings. It has also reopened golf course and outdoor spaces, such as parks and beaches, effective immediately.
Speaking with CP24 on Monday morning, Toronto Mayor John Tory said that he expects the province's plans to take the interests of Canada’s largest city into account.
“We are trying to make sure that the province and the City of Toronto work very much hand in hand because what you got here is a big city of three million people, the only one of its kind in the province or country and in that sense you can’t just sort of say that we are going to have rules for the province that don’t take into account a city of three million people,” he said, noting that he has been in “close contact” with Ford and other provincial officials.