TORONTO -- Ontario is extending its emergency orders until July 29 to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and avoid a second wave of the disease.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford first declared a state of emergency on March 17 as the province grappled with a surge in COVID-19 patients. Since, the province’s emergency orders have been extended several times.

"Although the trends in public health indicators continue to improve, we must remain on our guard and only relax emergency orders if and when safe to do so," Premier Doug Ford said in a statement released Thursday.

"By following our gradual plan to reopen the province, we are seeing people get back to work and resume many activities safely. We do not want to undo the tremendous progress we have made together.”

The statement said the province decided to extend the orders to ensure it continues to have the “necessary flexibility to protect public health and safety as more businesses reopen and people go back to work.”

The extension of the emergency orders comes as the most of the province heads into Stage 3 of Ontario’s reopening plan on Friday.

On July 7, the province introduced a new bill called “The Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act” that it says will ensure measures stay in place to address COVID-19 once the emergency deceleration ends.

The 188-page bill proposes changes to 20 pieces of legislation to help with COVID-19, but it includes a few changes that are not related to the pandemic.

“The government continues to review emergency orders currently in place to determine when and if they can be safely eased or lifted,” the province said in the statement.

“Keeping the emergency orders in place provides the government with the necessary flexibility to ensure the protection of vulnerable populations, such as seniors.” 

Ford said on Tuesday that the province’s health officials are working on a strategy to handle a second wave should one hit the province and will release the plan "shortly."

"We have a plan that will be rolling out and we're prepared," he said. "We are 100 times better, more prepared now in health care and PPEs ... but we can never, ever, ever, let our guard down."