TORONTO -- The Ontario government has confirmed that the province will enter the second stage of its COVID-19 reopening strategy two days ahead of schedule.

This means that starting Wednesday, people will once again be able to host indoor gatherings of up to five people, meet with up to 25 people outdoors, and finally, after months of closure, book personal care services like hair cuts.

Outdoor performances and team sports can also resume and outdoor attractions such as water parks are allowed to reopen.

“Because of the tireless work of our health care heroes, and the record setting success of our vaccine rollout, we are able to move into Step Two ahead of schedule on June 30 with the support of our public health experts,” Premier Doug Ford said in a news release issued Thursday.

The further loosening of public health restrictions means that outdoor dining capacity limits can increase to six people per table, essential retail can double to 50 per cent capacity and non-essential retail can move to 25 per cent capacity, up from 15.

Also, shopping malls can reopen with restrictions and larger indoor religious services, like wedding and funeral services, can resume at 25 per cent capacity.

READ MORE: What's allowed in each step of Ontario's three-tiered reopening plan?

CTV News Toronto reported Wednesday that Ford was considering moving up the second step of economic reopening by two days.

Prior to the announcement, the province had expected to enter Step 2 on July 2 at the earliest.

In order to enter Step 2 of the reopening strategy, the government said it needed to see 70 per cent of adults with one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 20 per cent with two doses for at least two weeks.

According to data released by the province, as of Wednesday, over 76 per cent of the population in Ontario above the age of 18 have received their first dose and over 29 per cent have received their second.

Based on Thursday's announcement, Ontario is expected to enter Step 3 of its reopening plan, which allows for the most lenient of public health restrictions, on July 21 if COVID-19 cases continue to trend downwards and the rate of vaccination remains high.

The Region of Waterloo will remain in Step 1 due to current COVID-19 data and the prevalence of the Delta variant, local health officials said. As well, Porcupine Health Unit, which has remained under lockdown orders, will move to Step 1 Friday. 

Ontario’s outgoing Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said Thursday that more detailed information on the reopening would be delivered in the coming days.

'There's more work ahead': Ontario’s top doctor says in final address

Williams held his final news conference Thursday at the helm of the province’s COVID-19 response.

Alongside his successor, Dr. Kieran Moore, Williams urged residents to continue following public health advice in the weeks and months ahead as the Delta variant threatens to become the dominant strain in the province.

“We’re in a good moment coming down, but there’s more work ahead,” he said.

Williams has delivered countless news conferences on the spread of the novel coronavirus in Ontario over the last 18 months and has been largely guiding the government’s response throughout the pandemic.

He was slated to retire in September of 2020, but that date was delayed by several months.

Moore, who previously served as the top doctor for Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington Public Health, has been working with Williams since June 7 to ensure a smooth transition.

He thanked Williams for his service throughout the course of the pandemic while expressing his gratitude for his mentorship.

“You’ve worked tirelessly to guide Ontario through this pandemic and have shouldered a heavy responsibility and load and done so with integrity and compassion,” Moore said.

“I can only hope I can continue that level of dedication to Ontario.

The province says that Moore will be holding weekly updates every Tuesday at 3 p.m. on Ontario’s COVID-19 response, alongside Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe and Dr. Dirk Huyer, Coordinator, Provincial Outbreak Response.

Previously, the province had been holding COVID-19 media briefings every Monday and Thursday.

Moore will officially assume the role of chief medical officer of health on June 26.