Toronto and Peel Region will move into Stage 3 of Ontario’s COVID-19 recovery plan on Friday July 31, the Ministry of Health said, as the province reported its fewest number of new cases since March 23. Windsor-Essex, the only other area of the province that is still in Stage 2, will not be permitted to proceed to the next phase at this point.
Stage 3 allows for activities such as indoor dining in restaurants, live performing arts shows and the reopening of movie theatres and playgrounds. It also permits larger gatherings of people, though social distancing requirements remain in place.
Indoor gatherings can increase to a maximum of 50 people, with 100 people allowed at outdoor events with physical distancing. Those numbers do not apply to bars and restaurants, however, where customers must be seated at tables two metres apart or separated by an impermeable barrier such as Plexiglas.
A number of places and activities deemed “high risk” remain forbidden from opening because it is likely large crowds would gather or because physical distancing and proper cleaning would be difficult. That includes amusement and water parks, buffets, dancing by patrons in restaurants and bars, overnight camps for children, private karaoke rooms, prolonged or deliberate contact while playing sports, saunas, steam rooms and table games at casinos.
In a news release, the Ontario government said the decision was made because of “positive local trends of key public health indicators” in Toronto and Peel, including consistently lower new daily cases, hospital capacity and an ability to contact trace confirmed cases of COVID-19.
“We have made tremendous progress that allows us to return to something a little closer to our normal lives this summer, but we are not out of the woods yet,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said. “This virus is still among us and we have to be extra cautious to avoid sparking a surge or an outbreak. I strongly urge everyone to continue following public health protocols.”