TORONTO -- Toronto and Peel Region will enter Stage 2 of Ontario's restart phase on Wednesday, allowing a longer list of shuttered businesses to reopen including restaurant patios, hair salons and malls.

The two regions have been eagerly awaiting this announcement for the last few weeks as most other regions in the province moved to Stage 2 of the government’s “Framework for Reopening our Province.”

Toronto, Peel Region and Windsor-Essex remained in Stage 1 due to the high number of new COVID-19 cases reported daily.

At the time, Ontario Premier Doug Ford urged patience, asking residents to take cautious steps to help curb the spread of the disease so that they can join the rest of the province in further opening up the economy.

Last Monday, Ontario reported 181 cases of COVID-19 on Monday, 134 of which were recorded in Toronto, Peel and Windsor-Essex. Today, the province reported 161 new infections in the last 24 hours. At least 80 of those cases, or 49 per cent, were reported in Toronto and Peel

“Ontario is heading in the right direction because everyone is doing their part," Ford said at a news conference on Monday afternoon. "We are hitting our markers. We are taking a cautious approach and this is helping Ontario move forward."

LIST: Who has been allowed to enter Stage 2 of economic reopening

Windsor-Essex, which is experiencing an outbreak among migrant workers, will be held in Stage 1 for at least another week. It is the only region in the province that will not move on to Stage 2 this week.

There were 32 new COVID-19 cases reported in the region in the last 24 hours, but 31 were reported in the agri-farm sector.

Ford said that he while he knows it is unfair to keep the entire region in Stage 1 due to outbreaks among migrant workers, it is necessary to do so. He added that farmers need to step up and encourage workers to get tested.

"We have to come up with a solution and it is not fair to all of the people outside the farming community," Ford said. "It’s not fair to the people of Windsor and Essex. I feel sorry for them. I really do. They want to get back to work."

The Ontario government also announced that they would be working with the federal government to conduct more inspections of farms as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

MORE: Majority of COVID-19 cases in Windsor-Essex are related to agri-farm sector

The province has said previously that at the beginning of each week, top health officials will reassess and announce which regions are ready to move into Stage 2. Those regions would then reopen on Friday, however officials said that Toronto and Peel Region are expected to reopen at 12:01 a.m. on June 24 instead.

This gives businesses two days to work out how to reopen their doors while adhering to public safety measures put in place due to COVID-19.

COVID0-19 beach

Speaking on Monday afternoon, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said it is still too early to make a decision on whether other regions can move into Stage 3 of reopening. She said the government will be waiting until all regions are in Stage 2 first.

"We are planning for Stage 3. We have a jobs and recovery committee that looks at that," she said Monday. “We won’t be ready to do that until we can assess the health effects of people in Stage 2, understanding if there are any concern areas we should be dealing with.”

"We haven't done that analysis yet because it hasn't been long enough.”

Once regions are allowed to enter Stage 3, all businesses will be permitted to reopen and restrictions on social gatherings will be relaxed.

What can open in Stage 2?

• Outdoor dine-in services at restaurants, bars and other establishments, including patios, curbside, parking lots and adjacent properties

• Daycares, with limits on the number of children at each facility

• Select personal and personal care services, including tattoo parlours, barber shops, hair salons and beauty salon

• Shopping malls under existing restrictions, including food services reopening for take-out and outdoor dining only

• Tour and guide services, such as bike and walking, bus and boat tours, as well as tasting and tours for wineries, breweries and distilleries

• Water recreational facilities, such as outdoor splash pads and wading pools, and all swimming pools

• Beach access and additional camping at Ontario Parks

• Camping at private campgrounds

• Outdoor-only recreational facilities and training for outdoor team sports, with limits to enable physical distancing

• Drive-in and drive-through venues for theatres, concerts, animal attractions and cultural appreciation, such as art installations

• Film and television production activities, with limits to enable physical distancing

Officials urge caution as large urban areas reopen

Shortly after the announcement, Toronto’s Board of Health released a statement saying they were optimistic about entering Stage 2 this week, but that residents needed to continue taking precautions.

“Living with the reality of COVID-19 is a risk that we will have to continue to manage every single day,” Joe Cressy, chair of the board, said in a statement. “While we have made progress on areas like case and contract tracing and data collection, there is still much work to be done.”

“With summer here, I am glad that people will be able to enjoy more of the services that our great city has to offer. But we are not out of the woods yet. As I have noted before, moving forward with re-opening means that will see more cases of COVID-19, because we cannot completely eliminate the risk of this virus until there is vaccine. We will experience new outbreaks, and we will, sadly, see deaths. This in inevitable.”

Cressy’s statements follow a weekend in which large crowds were seen at beaches across the Greater Toronto Area. 

"You look at the pictures, it looked like South Beach, Florida. You see what happened down in Florida, there was 4,000 cases in one day the other day," Ford said. "Folks, I get it. You want to get out, (it's a) hot day, there is a beach. We got to maybe come up with better protocols.”

"Everyone has to practice social distancing. This fight is not over. We are winning the fight but it is not over by any means.”

“It could turn and bite us in the backside in about a heartbeat."


A previous version of this story said that Toronto and Peel Region would reopen on Friday, as was consistent with the province's guidelines on regional reopening. The premier later confirmed they would be moving to Stage 2 of reopening on Wednesday.