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Ontario releases framework to reopen economy

Monday, April 27, 2020 @ 4:14 PM | By Terry Davidson

Ontario’s government has released a cautious, three-stage plan for reopening the province’s economy after shutting it down to curb the spread of COVID-19.

On April 27 Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a framework, which includes criteria from the province’s chief medical officer that provincial officials will use as guidance when loosening the emergency measures that were put in place in mid-March.

The plan, which is slim on detail, will be rolled out in three stages.  

Stage 1 will see the possible reopening of select workplaces that can immediately modify their operations to meet guidance from public health officials. This stage could also start to allow essential gatherings of a limited number of people and will see the opening of some outdoor spaces.

During Stage 2, the government will use risk-based assessments to open additional workplaces “with significant mitigation plans”. It could also mean the opening of additional public spaces and the allowance of larger public gatherings.

Stage 3 could see the opening of “all workplaces responsibly” and the “relaxing” of restrictions on public gatherings.

All three stages involve “continued precautions for vulnerable populations.

A news release states that there will be two to four weeks between the launch of each new stage to allow health officials to assess the situation. During these evaluation periods, measures can be “adjusted, loosened or tightened,” depending on progress and risk.

“Everyday actions to protect your health, like physical distancing, frequent hand washing and staying home when ill, will continue through each stage,” it states.

During a midday press conference, Ford noted the lack of a concrete timeline in the framework.

“The framework is about how we are reopening, not when we are reopening,” he said. “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 available to us. No one wants the economy to open up more than I do, but we can’t take anything for granted; we can’t take unnecessary risks.”

Vic Fedeli, minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, was asked about a lack of detail in the framework when it comes to what specific kinds of businesses would be allowed to reopen in Stage 1.

“This is a roadmap, this is not a calendar, and there are no specific businesses going to be outlined today,” said Fedeli. “This will be done on an as-required basis and taking our guidance on a daily basis from the health officials.”

Ford was asked about people being disappointed that the framework lacks any type of detailed timeline for reopening.

“This is a conversation that we are just starting right now,” he said. “I want the economy to get going … and I understand the pain a lot of companies and people are going through, and the pressure, and it hits home,” said Ford.

According to the framework, members of the Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee “will consult with people and businesses to assess the economic impacts of COVID‑19, learn about their unique needs, and help guide Ontario to our ‘new normal.’ ”

The framework also outlines Ontario’s overall response to COVID-19 in a set of three phases.

The first one, Protect and Support, talks of the emergency orders that were put in place that resulted in the shuttering of all non-essential workplaces, parks and various other public places.

The second phase looks at “Restart,” which details a “careful, stage-by-stage approach to loosening emergency measures and reopening Ontario’s economy.”

The third, called “Recover,” states that “[e]nsuring the health and safety of the public and workers will continue to be a top priority as Ontario transitions to a ‘new normal.’”