By MPP Toby Barrett
Ontario is winning the battle against COVID-19.
Following winter outbreaks the past two years and the accompanying shutdowns to bring case counts under control, outdoor recreation has opened. This includes marinas and boat ramps, golf courses, skate parks, shooting ranges, bike trails, parks and recreational areas, basketball and tennis courts. Outdoor gatherings are limited to five people and team sports are still prohibited.
This step forward didn’t take place by coincidence. It was due to the continuing success of Ontario’s vaccine rollout and the collective efforts of people in Ontario following public health and workplace safety measures. It also took place because of rallying efforts from our riding, providing me with information to take to Queen’s Park.
During the shutdown, I came to the conclusion Haldimand-Norfolk likely has the most boaters of any riding in Ontario. To start, in Turkey Point we have the largest freshwater marina in Canada, there are nearly a dozen more marinas lining Long Point’s Inner Bay. Travelling east, there are marinas in Port Dover, Nanticoke, Port Maitland, Dunnville and Lowbanks.
The announcement to open outdoor activities was part of Ontario’s Roadmap to Reopen, announced on May 20. It outlines three steps to easing public health measures:
Step 1: An initial focus on resuming outdoor activities with smaller crowds and permitting retail with restrictions. This includes allowing outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people, outdoor dining with up to four people per table and non-essential retail at 15 per cent capacity.
Step 2: Further expanding outdoor activities and resuming limited indoor services with small numbers of people where face coverings are worn. This includes outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people, outdoor sports and leagues, personal care services where face coverings can be worn, as well as indoor religious services, rites or ceremony gatherings at 15 per cent capacity.
Step 3: Expanding access to indoor settings, with restrictions, including where there are larger numbers of people and where face coverings can’t always be worn. This includes indoor sports and recreational fitness; indoor dining, museums, art galleries and libraries, and casinos and bingo halls, with capacity limits.
Based on current trends in key health indicators, including the provincial vaccination rate, the government expects to enter Step One of the roadmap the week of June 14, 2021.
While we are encouraged by the current trends of COVID-19 indicators, and the level of vaccination uptick, it’s critical we don’t lose this progress, which is why we are cautiously and gradually reopening the province. To be clear, modelling shows waiting until the middle of June to re-open will likely bring cases down to a very low level and a consistent downward trend throughout the summer.
The province will remain in each step for at least 21 days to evaluate any impacts on key public health and health system indicators. If at the end of the 21 days, the vaccination thresholds have been met and public health and health system indicators remain positive, the province will move to the next step.
Brighter days are ahead, as I write this the province has neared the 1,000 new cases threshold. This Roadmap represents a path out of the pandemic.
Toby Barrett is MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk.