TORONTO — Ontario will announce stage one of its three-part reopening this week, Premier Doug Ford said at a press conference Tuesday.
“We’re making steady progress. On Sunday, we saw the lowest daily number of new cases [of COVID-19] since March 31,” Ford said.
“On Thursday we will share more good news ― more good news about getting people back to work, more good news about opening workplaces, getting paycheques out the door, more good news about slowly getting back to normal.”
The government previously announced a three-part plan to reopen the province’s economy after non-essential businesses were forced to close to quell the spread of COVID-19.
Stage one brings the opening of some parks and businesses that can provide delivery or curbside pickup, as well as non-urgent surgeries and services at hospitals and funeral homes.
Two to four weeks later, stage two will see some service industries, retail businesses and offices open and larger gatherings allowed. Another two to four weeks after that, all workplaces will reopen and Ontario will further relax guidelines on gatherings for stage three.
Green party Leader Mike Schreiner questioned whether Ontario is running enough COVID-19 tests to justify reopening. The province tested 11,957 people for the disease Monday, well short of its capacity to do 20,000 per day.
“We cannot send people back to crowded workplaces without promising to keep them safe,” Schreiner said in a statement.
“The demand for tests will go up as more people go back to work, and we must be able to guarantee that testing and contact tracing will happen quickly and efficiently.”
Ford’s government also voted to extend the state of emergency until June 2.
“This additional time will ensure the province has the necessary tools and health care capacity to contain COVID-19, while gradually reopening businesses, services, and amenities safely,” the government said in a press release.
Ontario’s legislature held a special sitting with just 42 MPPs Tuesday.
Ford and his ministers faced questions about the pandemic’s devastating impact on long-term care homes during the first round of question period since mid March.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath asked Ford to commit to a public inquiry on the long-term care system.
While he agreed the system needs to be fixed, he did not announce any formal next steps.
“We will make sure we review long-term care along with all sorts of different areas within the government,” Ford said.
“We’re going to review the system — a system that has been broken for decades. I can promise you one thing: We are going to fix it. We’re going to fix it collectively, as a Legislature — not just as a party but everyone in this room.”
Horwath said any review must be independent from the government.
“Families with loved ones in long-term care are demanding answers. They deserve those answers, and they deserve a full public inquiry that is non-partisan to give them those answers,” she said.
The death toll from COVID-19 in Ontario’s long-term care homes stood at 1,239 Tuesday, representing 72 per cent of the province’s 1,725 total deaths.
With files from Samantha Beattie