Ontario government suggests new reopening plan will shift away from regional approach
TORONTO -- The Ontario government is hinting that the province will move away from "the regionalization approach" it has used in the past to lift public health restrictions and instead pursue a "sector by sector" reopening strategy.
Solicitor General Sylvia Jones made the comment to reporters at Queen’s Park on Wednesday.
It comes on the heels of the Ministry of Health confirming that they will not revive the colour-coded framework for COVID-19 restrictions when the time comes to restart Ontario’s economy.
“The Minister of Health has suggested that we're going to be moving away from the regionalization approach,” Jones said. “We know what happens is people move and are more likely to move from place to place if we go to a regional approach and have certain parts of the province with tighter restrictions than others.”
The Progressive Conservative government has previously imposed business closures and other public health restrictions on a region-by-region basis with Premier Doug Ford arguing that the different approach is needed given the different viral picture in some parts of the province.
The approach has at times resulted in some businesses being allowed to operate in parts of the Greater Toronto Area but not in others.
Jones, however, suggested on Wednesday that Ontario’s reopening plan is more likely to be based on a “sector by sector” approach in which different kinds of business would gradually be permitted to reopen based on risk.
“Sector by sector is important because frankly there are differences and nuances depending on what kind of business you operate. So that's why we want to look at sector by sector to see what can safely reopen and when,” she said.
Health Minister Christine Elliott has said that her government plans to provide the public with a full reopening “very soon.”
A target date to begin lifting restrictions hasn’t been decided on but sources have told CTV News Toronto that the government is working on a rough timeline of June and early July to fully unlock the economy.
OHA recommends staged reopening
The Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) wrote an open letter to Ford Wednesday, urging the premier to use a “staged and cautious” approach in reopening as ICU occupancy remains high and variants remain a significant threat.
The group said vaccination coverage, vaccine supply, disease incidence, health system capacity and understanding the sources of transmission should be taken into account by the province as they make their plans.
“The approach should be based on evidence and clear metrics and driven by the continued need to ensure that any ongoing transmission is limited,” the OHA wrote.
“It should consider equitable access to services and opportunities for marginalized populations, and – as appropriate – distinguish between the gradual reopening of the health care system and that of the broader economy.”
The group said maintaining high testing rates and effective case and contact management are crucial parts of the reopening strategy.
In the letter, the OHA laid out some key factors that should be considered for a staged approach to reopening. They include opening low-transmission environments first like parks, golf courses, tennis courts and other outdoor amenities, continuing current travel restrictions, setting vaccination targets in specific high-risk communities, and monitoring hospital capacity.
“By examining these areas in consultation with health and scientific experts and clearly communicating evidence-based decisions, Ontario can increase the probability that reopening is safe and successful,” the group wrote.
“This approach would protect vulnerable populations and public health and health system capacity and mitigate the risk of a fourth wave causing even more damage to the health system and economy.”
With files from CTV Toronto's Colin D'Mello