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Top doctor warns it will be at least another three weeks before indoor dining and gyms can reopen
July 2, 2021

Not so fast, folks.

It will be at least another three weeks before it is safe to reopen indoor restaurant dining and gyms, warns Ontario’s new chief medical officer of health.

On the eve of the province entering step two of reopening on Wednesday -- allowing haircuts and other personal services -- Dr. Kieran Moore said the more contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 means “we need to be cautious, we need to be prudent.”

“It is a difficult adversary. It is aggressive. It wants to spread rapidly. It’s virulent and it can have an increased risk of admission to hospital,” Moore told reporters at Queen’s Park on Tuesday.

“We need that 21 days to be able to understand the impact of opening on our communities,” said the doctor, who took over from the retired Dr. David Williams this week.

“I do think a 21-day interval is prudent and I personally don’t want to see that shortened because we need to be data-driven in the face of this new enemy,” he said.

Thanks to Ontario’s rapidly growing vaccination rates, the province will enter step two on Wednesday, two days earlier than planned.

Along with permitting hair stylists, barbers, manicurists, and others to return to work for the first time in months, that allows overnight summer camps, outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people, malls and libraries to reopen, increased capacity for retailers, larger religious services, and up to six people at a table on restaurant patios.

But Moore emphasized indoor dining at restaurants and bars, fitness centres, casinos, and bingo halls will have to wait until at least July 20 -- even though the step three threshold of 70 per cent to 80 per cent of adults with one dose and 25 per cent fully vaccinated has been achieved.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 77.5 per cent of Ontarians 18 years and older have had one shot and 37.3 per cent are fully vaccinated.

“I understand the community’s frustrations. We’ve done very well with our immunization strategy, but we have a new adversary in Ontario, a more aggressive adversary that we really need to be cautious about,” said Moore.

“I know everyone’s following the immunization rate and that’s a very important metric for us … but it’s only one of the metrics,” the doctor said.

“We’re watching hospitalization rates, the impacts on our intensive care partners, the number of people that need intensive care, requiring ventilation,” he said.

“I am an optimist. I would very much like us to move forward and not backwards.”

On Monday, Premier Doug Ford stressed he would be relying upon Moore to give him the green light for every step of reopening.

“We’ll be talking to the chief medical officer and I’m going to do everything we can to safely -- I want to repeat, safely -- open things up. It’s absolutely critical,” Ford said in Bracebridge.

“Folks, there’s no one that wants to open this economy up more than I do. I think we’re pretty well 90 per cent there, but it’s not good enough in my opinion,” he said.

After Moore’s comments Tuesday, Dan Kelly, president of the 95,000-member Canadian Federation of Independent Business, expressed concern about the pace.

“I understand the idea of an interval between reopening steps, but there is very little reopening this week in Ontario’s step two,” Kelly said on Twitter.

“I’m not sure why we can’t borrow from the experience of every other province that reopened weeks/months ago (with) continued reductions in COVID cases,” he said.

“In addition to keeping many small businesses (gyms, indoor dining, art/entertainment/events) in full lockdown until late July (step three), the Ontario (government) has not given any indication when full reopening will happen. Step three includes major capacity restrictions & there is no step 4.”