TORONTO (Reuters) – Ontario will ease coronavirus restrictions further in most regions excluding Toronto on July 17, moving to stage three of reopening in Canada’s most populous province, Premier Doug Ford said on Monday.
The new phase will increase the size of permitted gatherings from 10 people to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors with social distancing of at least 2 meters (6-1/2 feet).
Gyms, movie theaters and playgrounds will be able to open as long as they can ensure social distancing and not exceed gathering limits. Restaurants will also be able to offer indoor dining.
Ontario, with a population of 14.6 million, is lifting lockdowns put in place in March to limit the spread of the new coronavirus. The province has the second-highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths in Canada behind Quebec.
“We won’t stop until we get every person in Ontario… back on their feet,” Ford told reporters on Monday.
Ten out of Ontario’s 34 regions – including Toronto, Canada’s largest city and its financial capital, and Windsor-Essex, a region that has seen outbreaks of COVID-19 among agricultural workers – will remain in stage two for further assessment.
Amusement and water parks, dancing in restaurants and bars and overnight children’s camps will remain off limits.
In Quebec, Canada’s hardest-hit province, Premier François Legault said masks will become mandatory at indoor public places from Saturday, as the number of coronavirus cases creeps up after weeks of decline.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Monday that Ottawa intends to extend a federal wage subsidy program until December.
The stage two reopening in Ontario enabled almost 90% of economic activity to resume, resulting in 377,990 net new jobs in June in the province, provincial documents said. Stage three will have “almost 99% of the local economy available to reopen,” Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips said.
Childcare centers can increase group size to 15 children as of July 27, up from 10.
Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliot said the province will likely remain in stage three “for the foreseeable future.”
(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Toronto,; Additional reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal and Kelsey Johnson in Ottawa; Editing by Franklin Paul, Chris Reese and Cynthia Osterman)