TORONTO — Within the last two weeks, several provinces have been working on and/or releasing plans to re-open their economies and begin loosening restrictions put in place to help control the COVID-19 pandemic.
Provinces have made it clear that these actions will be measured and restrictions may be lifted or reinstated based on public-health needs. Many Premiers have also reminded the public that these re-opening processes do not mean “business as usual” will resume in the near future.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland Premier Dwight Ball recently stated that it was not yet time or the province to re-open its economy.
Prince Edward Island
On April 28, P.E.I. Premier Dennis King and Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison outlined the province’s measured plan to ease public-health restrictions related to COVID-19. Renew P.E.I., Together outlines the guiding principles and phased approach to the re-opening of businesses, services and public spaces.
The plan will be implemented in four distinct phases — the first of which will begin on May 1 — with a progressive lifting of public health measures on individuals, communities and organizations over three-week periods.
Priority non-urgent health care services will begin May 1, including health-service providers such as physiotherapists, optometrists, opticians, chiropractors, et cetera. Outdoor gatherings and non-contact outdoor recreational activities of no more than five individuals from different households, while maintaining physical distancing, will be permitted. This includes recreational fishing, golf courses and current P.E.I. residents going to their own seasonal properties. Select outdoor and construction services will also be allowed.
Phase two of the plan is scheduled to begin on May 22 and will include the reintroduction of small indoor gatherings (five individuals), larger outdoor gatherings (10 individuals) and limited recreation activities. Additional businesses, including retail outlets will also be permitted to re-open.
It’s expected that indoor dining (restaurants) and accommodations will be permitted to re-open in phase three of the plan — for P.E.I. residents only. Certain restrictions will remain in place, including recreational spaces, such as pool tables and dance floors, remaining closed and only allowing members of a household to dine together. Occupancy guidelines for accommodations are forthcoming following consultation with industry.
The third phase of the plan will potentially begin on June 12.
Officials in Nova Scotia indicated on April 23 that there are now immediate plans to lift the current COVID-19 restrictions, but the province is working on a phased plan for this process.
New Brunswick began loosening public-health restrictions on April 24. The plan to re-open businesses, educational facilities, the health-care system, recreational activities and cultural events will be guided by four distinct public-health alert levels:
- Red — the phase aimed at flattening the curve and containing the virus as quickly as possible
- Orange — focused on balancing the re-opening of social and economic settings while preventing a resurgence of transmission
- Yellow — this phase’s goal is to further increase re-openings after the ability to control transmission has been demonstrated
- Green — a phase that will likely come after a vaccine is available or more is learned about how to protect people from the virus
At this stage, the following have been allowed:
- Households may now choose to spend time with one other household, if both households agree. The selection made is not interchangeable.
- If all physical distancing and safety measures are in place, golf courses and driving ranges can now open.
- The delay on springs seasons for recreational fishing and hunting have been lifted.
- With physical distancing, people can now enjoy the outdoor spaces, including parks and beaches (team sports are not permitted).
- Co-workers or neighbours can carpool if physical distancing is maintained.
- Post-secondary students requiring access to campus to fulfill their course requirements will be able to do so.
- As an alternative to online worship, religious organizations can hold outdoor services if parishioners stay in their vehicles that are two metres apart.
People have been encouraged to wear non-medical masks (community face masks) when physical distancing may not be possible, such as in a grocery store or at a pharmacy. “Some stores have indicated they may require customers to wear community face masks, so it is good to have one with you,” says Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health.
Large gatherings such as festivals and concerts are prohibited through Dec. 31, 2020, subject to change.
It’s reported that the second stage could begin within two-to-four weeks and would include the re-opening of daycares, offices, restaurants, ATV trails and campgrounds.
On April 28, Quebec indicated that, in the coming weeks, activities will gradually resume. The re-openings will occur in phases, depending on the type of activities and the geographic zone.
Starting May 4, retail stores with a direct exterior access can resume their activities, except for those in the Montreal Metropolitan Community (CMM), which can re-open on May 11. Businesses in the supply chains of retail stores can resume their activities on the same dates.
Starting onMay 11,all construction-industry worksites can resume their activities. Manufacturing companies in all regions of Quebec will also be able to resume their activities with some restrictions — which will be lifted on May 25. May 11 will also mark the progressive re-opening of preschools and elementary schools, except those in the CMM, which will reopen on May 19.
The Ontario government released A Framework for Reopening our Province on April 27, outlining the criteria Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and health experts will use to advise the government on the loosening of emergency measures, as well as guiding principles for the safe, gradual re-opening of businesses, services and public spaces.
The framework also provides details of an outreach strategy, led by the Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee, to help inform the restart of the provincial economy.
“At the same time, we’re preparing for the responsible restart of our economy,” says Premier Doug Ford. “This next phase of our response to COVID-19 is designed to help us map out what needs to be done and when to get us back on the road to recovery.”
The three-phase process includes:
- Stage 1: For businesses that were ordered to close or restrict operations, opening select workplaces that can immediately modify operations to meet public-health guidance. Opening some outdoor spaces such as parks and allowing for a greater number of individuals to attend some events. Hospitals would also begin to offer some non-urgent and scheduled surgeries, and other healthcare services.
- Stage 2: Opening more workplaces, based on risk assessments, which may include some service industries and additional office and retail workplaces. Some larger public gatherings would be allowed and more outdoor spaces would open.
- Stage 3: Opening of all workplaces responsibly and further relaxing of restrictions on public gatherings.
There will be two to four weeks between the launch of each stage to allow health officials to assess conditions before moving to the next one. No timeline has been given at this time for when this process could begin.
On April 29, Premier Brian Pallister announced Manitoba’s multi-phase plan to loosen restrictions and re-open non-essential businesses beginning on May 4 — dubbed Restoring Safe Services: Manitoba’s Pandemic Recovery Roadmap.
Phase one of the plan will see:
- non-urgent surgery and diagnostic procedures restored
- therapeutic and healthcare services restored
- patio and walk-up services restored at restaurants
- hairstylists and barbers reopen
- museums, galleries and libraries reopen
- outdoor recreation and campgrounds reopen
Phase two of the plan will begin no earlier than June 1 and will include:
- expanding public gatherings
- restoration dine-in services at restaurants
- re-opening film production
- restoration of non-contact children’s sports
Future phases under the plan will be based on ongoing public health data and surveillance.
The Re-Open Saskatchewan plan was announced on April 23. The plan’s five-phase approach will begin lifting restrictions on May 4.
The first phase of the plan, beginning on May 4, includes the re-opening of medical services and the resumption of low-risk outdoor recreational activities, including fishing and boat launches, golf courses (beginning May 15) and a fixed date (June 1) for parks and campgrounds.
The second phase of the plan includes the May 19 re-opening of retail businesses and select personal services that were previously not deemed allowable.
The third phase will include the re-opening of remaining personal services, along with “restaurant-type” facilities, gyms and fitness facilities, licensed establishments and childcare facilities. Capacity limits will remain in some facilities, such as limits to 50 per cent of regular capacity for restaurants and licensed establishments.
The fourth phase will include the re-opening of indoor and outdoor recreation and entertainment facilities; and the fifth phase will include the consideration of lifting long-term restrictions, such as the Provincial State of Emergency and mandatory self-isolation following international travel or exposure to COVID-19.
Timing for the third, fourth and fifth phases have not yet been determined.
Alberta’s premier stated on April 29 that he plans to move forward with the goal of re-opening in a gradual manner, though no timeline has been given at this point. He also indicated plans to share further details later in the week.
On April 22, B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, indicated she would like the province to experience a few days without new COVID-19 cases before the process of easing restrictions begins.
However, Henry has also asked the restaurant industry to come up with ideas for what partial re-opening could look like while ensuring physical distancing.
Yukon’s chief medical officer Dr. Brendan Hanley indicated on April 24 that the process of developing a re-opening plan for the territory is underway, but will take a number of weeks.
The Northwest Territories’ health officials have stated that restrictions are expected to continue for the next month or more.
Officials in Nunavut have not made any announcement regarding re-opening plans.