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Canada’s economic engine, Ontario, plans phased reopening. “Won’t be rushed”

Ontario Premier Doug Ford delivers meals to healthcare workers in Toronto on April 24, 2020. Photographer: Cole Burston/Bloomberg

BLOOMBERG, APRIL 28, 2020

Canada’s province Ontario accounts for almost 40% of the country’s GDP | Planning a three-stage approach starts with select workplaces, parks | ‘We aren’t going to be rushed into anything,’ Premier says

By Jacqueline Thorpe for Bloomberg – It could be August before Ontario’s economy is fully back in business after the coronavirus pandemic eases, a time frame that depends heavily on the province seeing a continued decline in cases.

Premier Doug Ford outlined a gradual, phased approach to getting Canada’s largest provincial economy back to work that relies on criteria set out by the chief officer of health.

READ: Canadians would be crazy to open up their border with the United States right now

The details were vague and Ford committed to no hard dates or plans for specific industries. The plan has three stages and each will be monitored for two to four weeks before the next stage can begin:

  • In the first stage, select workplaces that can modify their operations “to meet public health guidance” will be allowed to open, along with some outdoor spaces like parks. Some non-urgent and scheduled surgeries will be allowed.
  • Stage two would see the opening of some service industries and additional office and retail workplaces, as well as larger public gatherings.
  • In stage three, all workplaces would be open and restrictions on public gatherings would be further relaxed.

“We aren’t going to be rushed into anything,” Ford said at a news conference in Toronto on Monday. “The health and well-being of the province is the No. 1 priority.”

Pandemic at its Peak

Provincial officials outlined the criteria they are watching before giving the green light. They include a consistent decrease in the number of new daily Covid-19 cases; sufficient acute and critical care capacity in hospitals; and improved testing and contact tracing. The province wants a system where health officials can reach, within one day, about 90% of the contacts of a suspected Covid-19 case.

Canada’s provinces began last week outlining plans to get their shuttered economies reopened. Saskatchewan has announced plans to reopen in phases starting on May 4 while New Brunswick is now allowing outdoor activities. Quebec said some schools would reopen on May 11.

Canada had 47,316 confirmed Covid-19 cases as of Monday morning and 892 deaths. Ontario makes up about 31% of the cases and 34% of the deaths, the second-most affected province after Quebec.

READ: Mexico, U.S. and Canada working on plan to reopen auto industry

The pandemic is seen as peaking in Ontario about now, according to health officials.

“Turning on an economy after an unprecedented shutdown is not as simple as flipping a switch,” Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips said in a statement. “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.”

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