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Ontario unveils three-stage plan to reopen the economy

·3 min read
TORONTO, March 21, 2020 -- Empty shelves are seen at a Walmart pharmacy in Toronto, Canada, March 21, 2020. With shortages of many items like face masks, surgical gowns, protective eye-wear and hand sanitizers, Canada's Ontario Provincial Premier Doug Ford appealed to the province's manufacturing sector to help produce key medical supplies on Saturday. (Photo by Zou Zheng/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Zou Zheng via Getty Images)

Ontario laid out a 3 stage plan for how it will reopen its economy during the coronavirus pandemic.

Premier Doug Ford didn’t give a timeline during a news conference.

“The framework is about how we’re opening, not when,” said Ford.

The first stage will be to allow businesses and select workplaces to reopen if they can modify operations to meet public health guidance. Some outdoor spaces, like parks will be allowed to have more people and some events. Hospitals can offer non-urgent surgeries and other services.

The second stage could allow some service industries and additional office and retail workplaces. Some larger public gatherings would be allowed, and more outdoor spaces would open.

All workplaces would reopen during the third stage, and gatherings where people follow guidelines will be permitted.

“No one wants the economy to open up more than I do, but we can’t take anything for granted, we can’t take unnecessary risks,” said Ford.

Each stage will be monitored for two to four weeks before moving on to the next. The province laid out a set of factors it is monitoring before reopening the economy.

  • A consistent two-to-four week decrease in the number of new daily COVID-19 cases;

  • Sufficient acute and critical care capacity, including access to ventilators and ongoing availability of personal protective equipment;

  • Approximately 90 per cent of new COVID-19 contacts are being reached by local public health officials within one day, with guidance and direction to contain community spread; and

  • Ongoing testing of suspected COVID-19 cases, especially of vulnerable populations, to detect new outbreaks quickly.

When will the coast be clearer?

Ken Perry, an emergency physician at TeamHealth, says testing will go a long way in reopening economies.

“It is difficult to determine a safe time to reopen when there is not a way to ensure accurate knowledge of who is suffering from COVID-19. In the end, I believe that we have to remind everyone that the ‘flattening of the curve’ does not equate to eradicating the disease,” Perry told Yahoo Finance Canada.

Perry says reopening at a slow pace will allow officials to evaluate their plans and be ready if there’s an increase in cases.

“The biggest issue is to allow for the research towards treatments and vaccines to have time to succeed.”

Ontario joined Quebec in laying out a framework for reopening. Saskatchewan and New Brunswick were the first to announce relaxed rules.

Pedro Antunes, chief economist at the Conference Board of Canada, says clarity from the provinces is key.

“Despite the uncertainty, it is important for governments to provide a plan with respect to when and how business restrictions will be phased out,” Antunes told Yahoo Finance Canada.

“In addition, governments should be forthcoming with the requirements for opening—will there be additional health and security measures required for specific types of business. This will help businesses large and small be ready for reopening as soon as conditions allow.”

During his daily news conference with updates on COVID-19, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he would not interfere with the province’s plans.

“I have full confidence in the premiers of the provinces and territories to move forward in a way is right for them,” said Trudeau.

Jessy Bains is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jessysbains.

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