TORONTO – The Ontario government announced on Monday afternoon a plan for reopening the province’s economy.
But when exactly it will take place remains to be seen.
The “Framework for Reopening Our Province” outlines criteria used by Dr. David Williams, the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, and other health experts to advise the government on loosening emergency measures and reopening the economy, services and public spaces.
Premier Doug Ford stressed during the April 27 press conference that the plan is a “road map” and not a calendar.
“The framework is about how we’re reopening, not when we’re reopening,” he said.
“Let me be crystal clear: as long as the virus remains a threat to Ontario, we will continue to take every precaution necessary, we will continue to act based on the best advice available to us.”
The plan consists of three stages, with public health officials monitoring each stage for two to four weeks.
Based on the results of the number of new daily COVID-19 cases, health care system capacity, ongoing testing and contact tracing efficiency, public health officials will determine if and when the province can move to the next stage.
During stage one, the province will consider:
- opening select workplaces that can meet current public health guidelines;
- allowing essential gathering of a limited number of people; and
- opening some outdoor spaces.
Stage two will look at opening more workplaces and public spaces, as well as allowing larger public gatherings.
Stage three would see the opening of all workplaces and relaxing restrictions on public gatherings.
Throughout each stage, the province said, continued protections for vulnerable populations must be in place, along with continued physical distancing, hand washing and respiratory hygiene, as well as significant mitigation plans to limit health risks.
After completion of the third stage, the province will enter a “recovery” stage, during which the government will work with businesses.
“No one wants the economy to open up more than I do, but we can’t take anything for granted,” said Ford.
“We’ve seen around the world that all it takes is one person, if precautions are not taken, one person infected with this virus can spread it by the hundreds.”
Ford added, “That’s why I won’t set our dates until we’re ready, because the virus travels at its own speed.”
The Ontario Jobs and Recover Committee, chaired by minister of finance Rod Phillips, will consult with key sectors across the province to assess a plan to move forward and reopen the economy.
“Recent public health indicators show us that we’re beginning to turn a corner in the COVID-19 outbreak, while economic data, feedback from businesses and insights from our communities are outlining how we need to plan for economic recovery,” said Phillips.
“Turning on an economy after an unprecedented shutdown is not as simple as flipping a switch. We need to plan this out carefully to ensure we do not spark a sudden outbreak, undo the progress we have made and put the safety of the public at risk.”
Asked if the current situation is “the new normal,” Ford said he believes life as Ontarians knew it has changed.
“I think life and business is going to change overall based on technology and other areas… but the quicker these numbers come down, the quicker we’ll get back to semi-normal,” said Ford.
“Until we get a vaccine for the virus – and it’s a little way off – I don’t think it’s going to be a hundred per cent normal. I don’t think it will ever go back to where it was before this.”
Despite that sentiment, Ford stated Ontario is in a unique position and the economy will bounce back.
“I’m totally, totally confident,” he said.
“We had the economy on fire before and I’m confident we’re going to do it again. We’re going to light a fire underneath the economy.”