The Ontario government has finally released A Framework for Reopening our Province, which outlines the criteria Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and health experts will use to advise the government on the loosening of emergency measures, as well as guiding principles for the safe, gradual reopening of businesses, services and public spaces.
The framework also provides details of an outreach strategy, led by the Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee, to help inform the restart of the provincial economy.
The 3 phase structure which is summarized below:
Phase 1: Protect & Support
The first phase which is already underway focuses on protecting the health and well-being of individuals and families, as well as supporting frontline health-care workers.
It also focuses on emergency orders put in place that shutdown non-essential workplaces, outdoor amenities at parks, recreational areas and public places, as well as put restrictions on social gatherings.
Phase 2: Restart
This phase is broken down into three stages that provide a “careful approach” to loosening emergency measures and therefore reopening Ontario’s economy, the framework states.
During this phase, the government says public health and workplace safety “will remain the top priority,” while balancing the needs of people and businesses.
Each of the following three stages will be monitored by health officials for two to four weeks.
Open select workplaces, allow some small gatherings
- Businesses that can “immediately meet or modify operations” to meet public health guidance, for example those that can conduct curbside pickup or delivery
- Opening some outdoor spaces, such as parks, and allowing for “greater number of individuals” to attend some events, such as funerals
- Hospitals begin to offer some non-urgent surgeries and other health-care services
Open more workplaces and outdoor spaces, allow some larger gatherings
- May include some service industries and additional office and retail workplaces
Further relax restrictions on public gathers, opening all workplaces
- Large public gatherings, such as concerts and sporting events will continue to be restricted for “the foreseeable future”
After each two-to-four-week period, health officials may advise to “reapply or tighten certain public health measures,” “maintain status quo,” or “progress to the next stage.”
Phase 3: Recover
This phase includes Ontario transitioning to its “new normal” and will focus on creating jobs across the province while ensuring that workplaces are following strict health and safety guidelines.
“Remote work arrangement should continue where feasible,” the province states.
Considerations for each stage
To reopen the economy, the government will consider factors such as the risk of the spread of COVID‑19 and the ability to implement protective and preventive measures in the workplace. The Chief Medical Officer of Health and health experts will advise the government on when it may begin to ease public health measures using a range of criteria, including:
- a consistent two-to-four week decrease in the number of new daily COVID‑19 cases
- sufficient acute and critical care capacity, including access to ventilators and ongoing availability of personal protective equipment
- approximately 90% of new COVID‑19 contacts are being reached by local public health officials within one day, with guidance and direction to contain community spread
- ongoing testing of suspected COVID‑19 cases, especially of vulnerable populations, to detect new outbreaks quickly
This is just a Roadmap
The premier repeatedly stated that the plan “is a roadmap, not a calendar.”
“The framework is about how we are reopening, not when we are reopening. Let me be crystal clear, as long as this virus remains a threat to Ontario, we will continue to take every precaution necessary. We will continue to act based on the best advice that is available to us” Ford said.
Ford added that no one wants the economy to open up more than he does, but noted that the province cannot take “any unnecessary risks”.