Plan to reopen Ontario will be released early next week, Ford says

Published April 24, 2020 2:06 p.m. ET
Updated April 24, 2020 4:25 p.m. ET

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The province plans to release its framework for reopening Ontario early next week, Premier Doug Ford announced Friday.

Ford, who spoke to reporters at Queen’s Park during his daily COVID-19 update this afternoon, said the document will outline the “gradual and measured approach” the province will take to restart the economy.

“Let me be clear, the health and safety of Ontario will always come first,” Ford said.

The premier has given very few hints as to the timeline for reopening and has not said what specific sectors will be given the go-ahead first.

When asked if the province is looking at taking a more regional approach to reopening Ontario, both Ford and Finance Minister Rod Phillips expressed concern about that method.

“We are dealing with almost two different worlds. You have the urban and you have the rural areas but we are all connected,” Ford said Friday.

“The problem with that… is we just can’t risk someone in Toronto going up north.”

Phillips said the movement of people is a major consideration when looking at whether to open up individual regions ahead of others.

“Obviously we are experiencing in the suburban and urban areas different realities of community transmission than they are in some of the more rural areas,” he said.

He noted that if restrictions were lifted in certain regions, people from other areas may actually be “incented” to go to the regions no longer under lockdowns, leading to further transmission of the virus in the community.

“But this is absolutely what the framework is considering. We are getting the very best health and science advice as well as looking at it from an economic perspective,” Phillips said.

Ford said officials are also looking to other jurisdictions around the country and the world to see what is working and what is not.

Saskatchewan recently released its five-phase plan for reopening the province, a process which is expected to begin on May 4 with the opening of medical services.

Saskatchewan’s plan proposes opening golf courses by May 15, retail and personal care services by May 19, and parks and campgrounds by June 1.

There is no date associated with Phase 3 of Saskatchewan’s framework, which includes opening things like restaurants, gyms, and child care facilities.

It notes that restrictions related to large gatherings and travel will likely “stay in place for the foreseeable future.”

When asked about Saskatchewan’s plan, Phillips said that province is “further ahead” when it comes to COVID-19.

Ford also noted that the makeup of the two provinces are very different.

“Saskatchewan has a much, much smaller population in a large area and a lot of farming communities,” Ford said.

Ontario reported a record-high 640 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday but the number of recovered cases has now surpassed the number of active ones.

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health has previously suggested that the province would need to see a significant reduction in the number of new cases per day before we can begin to look at restarting the economy.

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