'Stage 2' begins Friday in some Ontario regions

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Most of Ontario, including Tillsonburg and the Oxford-Elgin region, will be allowing restaurant patios, shopping malls, hair salons and many other workplaces to reopen Friday as the province moves into “Stage 2.”

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced Monday that a wide range of businesses will be allowed to reopen this Friday in 24 health-unit regions – but not in the Greater Toronto Area, Windsor, Niagara, Hamilton and Haldimand-Norfolk regions, where new COVID-19 cases have stayed stubbornly high.

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On Monday afternoon, the Town of Tillsonburg announced it is reviewing its response to the announcement of Stage 2, and will provide an update on Town services and facilities when available. An online Council Meeting is scheduled Thursday, June 11, 6-10:30 p.m.

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The province will give an update every Monday on whether the health metrics allow for those staying at Stage 1, including Haldimand-Norfolk, to reopen on the following Friday. That means the soonest they could reopen is June 19.

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The government’s regional approach reflects the unique realities of different communities in Ontario, recognizing that many areas of the province have seen fewer – or no new cases of COVID-19 – in the past two weeks.

Directed by the Province, each region will be permitted to enter Stage 2 when safe to do so. The government’s decision will be based on public health criteria including virus spread and containment, along with health system and incidence-tracking capacity.

The list of what’s allowed to reopen in Stage 2 includes restaurant and bar patios, shopping malls, personal care services such as hair and beauty salons, museums, libraries, beaches, pools, and tour and guide services. However, they will all need to follow guidelines and restrictions to reduce personal contact and allow for social distancing.

Ontario is also now allowing social gatherings of up to 10 people for the whole province, increased from five.

CHURCHES

To support places of worship to reopen across the province and help to ensure the safety of worshippers, church attendance will be limited to 30 per cent of building capacity, and churches will ensure physical distancing.

Venues for wedding ceremonies, funerals and similar gatherings can also reopen, but will still have to comply with the 10-person limit on social gatherings.

“We are able to make this announcement today because of the extraordinary effort of our frontline workers and every other person in the province who helped to stop the spread of this deadly virus,” said Ford. “Entering Stage 2 means parts of the province will see more people back on the job and an opportunity to get back together with friends and family. Although this is extremely encouraging, I urge everyone to exercise caution and continue to follow public health advice as we are not out of the woods yet.”

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Everyone, according to the government, “must continue to follow public health advice, including to practice physical distancing, wear a face covering if physical distancing is a challenge, wash hands frequently and thoroughly, and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.”

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and health experts will closely monitor the situation to advise when public health restrictions can be gradually loosened or if they need to be tightened.

“As a result of efforts of all Ontarians to stop the spread of COVID-19, many regions have met the criteria to move into the next stage of our reopening plan, including a decrease in new daily cases and sufficient hospital capacity in the event of any spikes in cases or outbreaks,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “Our regional approach recognizes that different regions in the province are experiencing COVID-19 differently and can safely and gradually ease restrictions and reopen local businesses. We will continue to monitor any shifts in the spread and take decisive action to contain any outbreaks.”

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Businesses and services permitted to reopen with proper health and safety measures in place in regions entering Stage 2 include:

* Outdoor dine-in services at restaurants, bars and other establishments, including patios, curbside, parking lots and adjacent properties.

* Select personal and personal care services with the proper health and safety measures in place, including tattoo parlours, barber shops, hair salons and beauty salons.

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* Shopping malls under existing restrictions, including food services reopening for take-out and outdoor dining only.

* Tour and guide services, such as bike and walking, bus and boat tours, as well as tasting and tours for wineries, breweries and distilleries.

* Water recreational facilities such as outdoor splash pads and wading pools, and all swimming pools.

* Beach access and additional camping at Ontario Parks.

* Camping at private campgrounds.

* Outdoor-only recreational facilities and training for outdoor team sports, with limits to enable physical distancing.

* Drive-in and drive-through venues for theatres, concerts, animal attractions and cultural appreciation, such as art installations.

* Film and television production activities, with limits to enable physical distancing.

* Weddings and funerals, with limits on social gatherings to 10 people.

As more people return to work, the services they rely on will need to be available regardless of the stage a region is in.

Child care centres across the province will shift away from providing only emergency child care to enabling the gradual reopening of regular child care, with strict public health measures in place, including to limit operational capacity.

The province will also soon release more details on: summer camps, training centres, and public transit.

– with files from Brian Platt, Postmedia News

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