Restaurants, bars, gyms and cinemas can reopen in most of Ontario on Friday — but not in the GTA

We expect to find out about the guidelines for public libraries on Tuesday.

“Indoor restaurants, bars, gyms and cinemas will reopen Friday in most of Ontario except for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area and parts of the southwest, says Premier Doug Ford.

The premier announced Monday that much of the province will enter stage three of the framework for reopening as new cases of COVID-19 continue to remain low.

That’s good news for Ottawa, Brant County, Peterborough, Grey Bruce, Kingston, Kitchener-Waterloo, Guelph, Muskoka, Sudbury, North Bay and a slew of other regions.

But Toronto, Peel, Durham, Halton, York, Hamilton, Niagara, Haldimand-Norfolk, Windsor-Essex and Lambton will remain in the current second stage of reopening.

Ford said those regions would reopen “at a later date” as long as new cases of coronavirus stay steadily low and public health officials give him the green light.

In the legislature, the premier noted Ontario has learned lessons from the U.S., where reopening businesses and attractions too quickly has led to a surge in cases.

He said Ontarians have been thanking him “for not being like the U.S.” and being cautious as prohibitions are lifted.

After Friday, the places in stage three can have indoor gatherings of up to 50 people, while in stage two the limit remains at 10.

Outdoor gatherings will be increased to a maximum of 100 people in the third stage.

“Nearly all businesses and public spaces will be able to gradually reopen in stage three, with public health and workplace safety restrictions in place, while some high-risk venues and activities will remain closed until they can safely resume operations,” the government said.

“Physical distancing remains a requirement for all people who are not from the same household or social circle.”

However, restrictions will remain out of fears the virus can spread.

“The chief medical officer of health, public health experts and other officials have advised … high-risk places and activities are not yet safe to open, due to the likelihood of large crowds congregating, difficulties with physical distancing, or challenges maintaining the proper cleaning and sanitation required to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” the government said.

These include amusement parks and water parks, buffet restaurants, dancing at restaurants and bars, overnight camps for children, private karaoke room, saunas, bath houses, oxygen bars and table games at casinos.

But in stage three “all restaurants, bars, concession stands, and other food and drink establishments may open for indoor dine-in.”

“Nightclubs are not yet safe to open, except for the purpose of serving food or drinks to patrons in accordance with the conditions that apply to restaurants and bars,” the government said.

“All patrons must be seated when eating or drinking at the establishment,” it added.

“Establishments must take appropriate measures to ensure physical distancing of at least two metres between patrons from different tables, unless separated by Plexiglas or some other impermeable barrier.”

For athletes, “prolonged or deliberate contact while playing sports is not permitted” in order to curb the spread of COVID-19.

“Amateur and recreational sports leagues may resume so long as they do not allow prolonged or deliberate physical contact between players or if they have modifications to avoid physical contact between players,” it said.

“Leagues must contain no more than 50 participants total. If participants in a league exceed 50, the league may divide into smaller groups of no more than 50. Players are not yet permitted to play against players outside of their league or group.”

Spectators at such events must abide by the gathering limits and physical distancing restrictions.

While gyms, fitness studios, and community centres can reopen indoor facilities, similar measures will be in effect to keep people two metres apart.

“The total number of people permitted in areas containing weights or exercise machines is limited to the number of people that can maintain physical distancing of at least two metres, which cannot exceed the indoor gathering limit of 50 people.”

While “concerts, artistic events, theatrical productions, performances, and movie theatres may resume operations,” there will be strict limits.

“Performers must maintain physical distancing of two metres from every other person, except from other performers where necessary for purposes of the performance,” the government said.

Similarly, “audiences are subject to the number of people that can maintain physical distancing of at least two metres and cannot exceed gathering limits of 50 indoors and 100 outdoors,” it said.

“This applies to the entire facility, regardless of the number of theatres or performance stages within the facility.””