Ontario Premier Doug Ford said that decisions regarding the reopening of restaurant patios will be made “within the week,” but it will most likely be based on a regional approach.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday afternoon, Ford said that he’s been talking with his caucus and cabinet about the issue, and said he knows that as the weather gets warmer people want restaurant patios to open back up.
“That’s one of the areas we are looking at with the regional opening,” Ford said. “That’s on the health table right now and they will make those decisions within the week and we will be about to come out to the public and discuss that.”
Restaurants and bars in Ontario were told back in March that they would be temporarily closed for dine-in service as the province grappled with the COVID-19 outbreak. These facilities have been allowed to continue operating takeout and delivery.
This is the first time in about three months that the Progressive Conservative government has mentioned the possibility that dine-in service may be back on the table.
However, Ford prefaced the comment by mentioning the change specifically in rural areas, a fact that may be disappointing to restaurant owners struggling to stay afloat in large urban areas such as the Greater Toronto Area.
The premier announced last week that his government will now be considering a regional approach to reopening the economy due to the fact that testing has ramped up across the province.
“We are getting a much better picture of what each region is dealing with, with more testing that picture becomes more and more clear,” he said at the time.
“The reality on the ground is different in every part of the province.”
The majority of COVID-19 cases in Ontario, about 66.2 per cent, have been confirmed in the Greater Toronto Area.
Ford said that due to this fact, when the province moves to stage 2 of the its three-stage reopening phase, it will be done on a more regionalized approach.
The province entered the first stage of reopening on May 19, which allowed for a number of businesses to reopen, including those with a street-front entrance, if strict public health guidelines were followed to ensure customer and employee safely.
Speaking on Wednesday, the premier also said that he hopes to discuss the province’s plan to move ahead with reopening over the next week or so, despite the fact that just two days earlier Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province "still needs to go some distance" before moving forward.
The comments about reopening restaurant patios come a day after the Ford government extended the province’s state of emergency for another month.
Included under the province’s state of emergency are a number of emergency orders, including those banning social gatherings of more than five people who are not from the same household and prohibiting restaurants from opening.
Those orders can be amended by the province despite the state of emergency still being in affect.
Ford made it clear that the extension of Ontario’s state of emergency will not slow down the reopening of the economy.