TORONTO -- Nearly all businesses, including gyms, movie theatres and indoor dining, can reopen on Friday in parts of Ontario, except for the Toronto-area and a few other regions, as the province enters Stage 3 through a regional approach. 

The majority of Ontario's 34 local public health unit regions will move forward to Stage 3 on July 17, the province announced on Monday. 

Health units in the Greater Toronto Area, along with a few others like Niagara and Windsor, are not included on the list of regions moving forward to Stage 3. The regions excluded from the list will remain in Stage 2 of the restart phase until further notice.

"We will keep working until every part of this province gets to Stage 3," Premier Doug Ford said Monday. "My friends, this is great news. We are moving forward as a province but we can't stop, we won't stop until we get every worker in Ontario back to work and back on their feet."

For the regions moving forward to Stage 3, there will be a significant increase to social gathering limits. 

Indoor gathering limits will increase from 10 to a maximum of 50 people, while outdoor gathering limits will increase to a maximum of 100 people. 

Physical distancing is still required during any gathering with people from outside an individual's social circle. The province is not increasing the number of people a person can gather with without physical distancing measures in place. 

The government is also banning a number of high-risk businesses and activities from resuming in Stage 3, including amusement parks, water parks, buffet-style food services, dancing in restaurants and bars, overnight stays at camps for children, private karaoke rooms, prolonged or deliberate contact while playing sports, saunas, steam rooms, bath houses and oxygen bars.

Casinos will be allowed to reopen but table games are banned. 

All restaurants, bars, concession stands, and other food and drink establishments are allowed to reopen for indoor dining in Stage 3. Nightclubs are still banned from reopening, except for the purpose of serving food or drinks. 

Gyms and fitness studios can also reopen with safety protocols in place. Organized sports can also resume, with the exception of contact sports. 

Playgrounds, community centres and libraries will also reopen. 

The province will also allow personal support services to resume that involve a customers' face, such as facials and some piercings.

"All other businesses and public spaces will be permitted to be open, subject to ensuring the appropriate health and safety measures are in place, as well as limits on gathering sizes," the government said. 

The government said that as more businesses and activities reopen, COVID-19 trends will be monitored closely and restrictions can be “further loosened, or if they need to be tightened.”

People are still being asked to work remotely "as much as possible," the government said. 

Health Minister Christine Elliott said that Ontario will remain in Stage 3 for the "foreseeable future."

"Certainly we are all hoping there will be a vaccine in short order but apart from that we will remain in Stage 3," she said.  "But depending on how Stage 3 moves forward in different parts of the province, if we keep our numbers down, if there are no new outbreaks of COVID-19, then we will be able to gradually expand things like the size of gatherings for example."

"That will be a gradual loosening of the health restrictions, still within Stage 3."

Ontario also extended the province's state of emergency on Monday until July 24.

When will the Toronto area move to Stage 3?

Elliott said that the province needs more COVID-19 data from the regions who are not heading into Stage 3 before a decision can be made about moving forward. 

"There are several other communities that moved into Stage 2 before Toronto did. We expect that will happen in the same way because the chief medical officer of health and the public health experts need to see about four weeks of data to understand what is going on locally, to make sure there are no further public health concerns," Elliott said.

"We expect that the next group will be the second group that moved to Stage 2 will be the second group to move to Stage 3 just because of the time frames that have elapsed and then Toronto will follow."

Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, said he hopes all regions will enter Stage 3 by the end of July.

These are the regions moving forward to Stage 3 on Friday: 

  • Algoma Public Health
  • Brant County Health Unit
  • Chatham-Kent Public HealthEastern Ontario Health Unit
  • Grey Bruce Health Unit
  • Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit
  • Hastings Prince Edward Public Health
  • Huron Perth Public Health
  • Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health
  • Leeds Grenville & Lanark District Health Unit
  • Middlesex-London Health Unit
  • North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit
  • Northwestern Health Unit
  • Ottawa Public Health
  • Peterborough Public Health
  • Porcupine Health Unit
  • Public Health Sudbury & Districts
  • Region of Waterloo Public Health and Emergency Services
  • Renfrew County and District Health Unit
  • Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit
  • Southwestern Public Health
  • Thunder Bay District Health Unit
  • Timiskaming Health Unit
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health

These are the regions remaining in Stage 2:

  • Durham Region Health Department
  • Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
  • Halton Region Public Health
  • Hamilton Public Health Services
  • Lambton Public Health
  • Niagara Region Public Health
  • Peel Public Health
  • Toronto Public Health
  • Windsor-Essex County Health Unit
  • York Region Public Health