Ontario begins working on reopening plan as modelling data suggests cases have peaked
TORONTO -- Ontario Premier Doug Ford has said that his government is working on a framework to guide the “gradual, measured and safe” reopening of the economy after health officials released data saying community-spread cases of COVID-19 appear to have peaked.
Speaking at Queen’s Park alongside Health Minister Christine Elliott and Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams, Ford said that while he is working on a plan, he doesn’t want to provide a date for when it will be implemented.
“I do not want to put a date on this. I really don’t because this could bite us in the backside in about 10 seconds. It could come up with a second wave again. I’m very, very concerned about flu season in the fall…There is no one who wants to open the economy more than I do. But we just need to hold off for a bit,” he said.
“I am giving people hope because that’s what people want. They want certainty in their lives. I just want people in the next couple of weeks to hang in there.”
The announcement was made hours after health officials said the total number of cumulative cases for the span of the outbreak is now likely less than 20,000, which is a far cry from the 300,000 possible cases the province had projected it would see by the end of the month in a worst-case scenario.
Officials also indicated that community spread of COVID-19 appears to have peaked due to public health measures taken at both the provincial and municipal levels. At the same time, the virus seems to be spreading at an increasing rate in long-term care homes and other congregate settings, officials said.
Ford said that there will be multiple benchmarks that need to be achieved before the province eases any restrictions. No further details have been released regarding the criteria or benchmarks, but the premier said they will be created in consultation with health officials, business associations and municipal partners.
He also would not say what regions or industries would be reopened first.
“Above all, the health and safety of each and every person in this province must remain the first priority,” Ford said while urging people to continue practicing physical distancing and following the advice of health professionals.
The announcement comes about two weeks after the government launched a committee with the goal of helping the province’s economy return to normal after the COVID-19 pandemic runs its course.