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Monday, April 27, 2020

Doug Ford unveils plan to begin reopening Ontario's economy

Ontario has a plan for reopening businesses, schools, parks, venues, offices and everything else that's been shut down for more than a month now due to COVID-19 — but we don't yet have any hard dates for when this will start to happen.

"We are preparing for the responsible restart of our economy," said Premier Doug Ford on Monday when releasing the details of his government's "new phased approach for a safe restart and recovery."

"This next phase of our response to COVID-19 is designed to help us map out what needs to be done, and when, to get us back on the road to recovery."

A newly-published, 11-page-long document called A Framework for Reopening our Province outlines "guiding principles" for reopening Ontario's economy, as well as the criteria health officials will use to advise the government on when they can start loosening emergency measures.

ontario reopening plan

Government officials said on Monday that the province would reopen 'slowly, methodically and gradually' once emergency orders meant to slow the spread of COVID-19 are lifted. Image via Ontario.

The principles listed in the document include the words responsible, resourced, monitored and clear.

The criteria used by Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, to determine when we can begin phasing out emergency orders includes the following:

  • 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 per cent of new COVID-19 contacts are being reached by local public health officials within one day, with guidance and direction to contain community spread; and
  • Ongoing testing of suspected COVID-19 cases, especially of vulnerable populations, to detect new outbreaks quickly.

"The government is planning a stage-by-stage approach to reopening the economy to ensure there are appropriate measures in place so workplaces can open safely," wrote the province in a press release Monday.

"Public health officials will carefully monitor each stage for two to four weeks, as they assess the evolution of the COVID-19 outbreak to determine if it is necessary to change course to maintain public health."

Stage one of the reopening process — which, again, will begin only after a consistent two–to-four week decrease in the number of new daily COVID-19 cases — includes opening some outdoor spaces such as parks.

Examples provided by the province for actions taken during this stage also include increasing the number of people allowed to congregate, allowing non-urgent surgeries and other medical procedures at hospitals and opening "select workplaces that can immediately modify operations to meet public health guidance."

Stage two would see more workplaces open, potentially in the service industries, and stage three would see the "opening of all workplaces responsibly" and a further relaxing of current restrictions placed on public gatherings.

"It is because of the collective efforts of all Ontarians to stay at home and stop the spread of COVID-19 that we are able to consider plans to move into the next phase of our battle against this virus," said Health Minister Christine Elliott of the plan. 

"To be able to do so, we need everyone to continue their extraordinary efforts so that we can meet these thresholds and begin to move forward."

Exciting as the thought of simply hanging out with one's friends at a bar may be right now, Ford and his ministers stressed during their daily COVID-19 press conference on Monday that the economy will reopen "slowly and safety."

"Recent public health indicators show us that we're beginning to turn a corner in the COVID-19 outbreak," said Finance Minister Rod Phillips.

However, says Phillips, "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."

It could be a while yet before we see mass gatherings again in Ontario. We may even be in for an entire summer without concerts. It all depends on how the pandemic plays out.

Still, with today's release of an action plan for economic recovery, a faint light is finally starting to emerge at the end of this lonely, frustrating tunnel.

by Lauren O'Neil via blogTO

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