Ontario is expected to announce further easing of COVID-19 restrictions after having paused in Step 3 of the “Roadmap to Reopen” in mid-July.
The news, first reported by CBC’s Mike Crawley, was confirmed to Daily Hive by a government official.
Step 3 was originally the final step in Ontario’s reopening plan, but an official told CBC that exiting this step will not mean all COVID-19 precautions go out the window.
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At a press conference on Thursday, Ontario’s chief medical officer said that they are looking at all the data and plan to provide the government with a reopening schedule next week.
“We will not be doing this suddenly,” he said. “This will be slow, gradual and cautious following data like we’ve been doing for the last year and a half.”
He added that his direction has been to provide advice and that the final decision is up to the Ontario government.
There are certain thresholds that will be watched closely when restrictions are lifted, such as test positivity rates, daily case rates, hospitalizations and ICU admissions.
The vaccine certificate system in Ontario is expected to remain in place until at least the spring, and things like masking indoors are expected to continue. There are reports that the vaccine certificate program will eventually be voluntary, but Dr. Moore said that is a long way off.
“We’re still reviewing that science and getting the input of our experts, but we do not see the whole certification process ending suddenly, but having a phased exit from it over time,” he said.
Moving out of Step 3 could mean lifting capacity limits, some of which were just lifted last week, on spaces where proof of vaccine is required.
“I do believe we can lift measures in a proportionate way, in a timely fashion, and slowly, to allow our economy to fully recover,” said Dr. Moore.
This news comes as Ontario’s seven-day rolling average for new COVID-19 cases dips below 500 and has continued to trend downward and vaccination rates in the province continue to climb over 80%.