Province urges residents to follow public health advice as Ontario enters first phase of reopening

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"We're watching the trends like a hawk right now," said Premier Doug Ford, who noted that the government won't hesitate to roll back its reopening plan if necessary.

On Tuesday, May 19, Ontario officially entered the first phase of the government's reopening framework, with thousands of businesses reopening and many residents going back to work.

As the province gradually reopens, the government is continuing to ask residents to follow public health advice and defend against COVID-19 -- namely, keeping a distance of at least two metres from other people, and wearing a face mask or face covering when physical distancing isn't possible, such as while riding public transit.

"Although we are making progress, COVID-19 is still a risk that we must guard against. Please stay safe and protect yourself and others," Ford said.

"If we see things going in the wrong direction, we'll be fully prepared -- we won't hesitate -- to roll things back if necessary."

To assist residents with proper face-covering guidelines, the Ministry of Health released the following recommendations:

  • Wear your face covering safely and snugly to cover your nose and mouth, without any gaps. Ensure your face covering is made of at least two layers of tightly woven material and can be cleaned multiple times without losing its shape
  • Medical masks, such as surgical and N95 masks, should be reserved for use by health care workers, those providing direct care, first responders and individuals who are ill and must leave their home for essential reasons such as seeking medical care, picking up medication or groceries
  • Face coverings should not be placed on or used by children under the age of two; anyone who has trouble breathing; and anyone who is unable to remove it without assistance

"Those taking transit or going out who can't physically distance should wear non-medical grade cloth masks," said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. "We need to reserve all of the medical masks to protect our frontline health care workers, first responders and people who are ill."

The Ministry of Health has also recommended that the following measures be put in place to protect transit riders and staff:

  • Physical distancing of at least two metres by admitting fewer passengers and using physical markers between seats
  • The use of face coverings, particularly when physical distancing is not feasible
  • Ensuring the availability of alcohol-based hand rub upon entering and exiting the vehicle
  • Implementing engineering controls like plexiglass windows between drivers and passengers
  • Enhanced cleaning, particularly of high-touch surfaces

"Ontario's public transit systems are critical to supporting the economy and getting people where they need to go as the province begins to reopen," said Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney. "The health and well-being of all transit workers and passengers is a top priority for our government and we will be working with transit agencies to ensure that public transit can continue to operate safely."

All Canadians returning from international travel will continue to be legally required to self-isolate for 14 days at home.

More information on the government's reopening framework can be found at the Ontario website.

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