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Canada’s most populous province on Thursday released a “cautious” three-step roadmap to reopen after a lockdown prompted by a surge in coronavirus cases.

The provincial government of Ontario said it would gradually lift public health measures based on the rising vaccination rate and improvements in key public health indicators. 

“As a result of the strict public health measures we introduced to stop the spread of Covid-19 variants, we are seeing a steady improvement in our situation as intensive care units and hospital numbers begin to stabilise,” Doug Ford, premier, said. 

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“While we must remain conscious of the continued threat the virus poses, with millions of Ontarians having received at least their first dose of vaccine we can now begin the process of a slow and cautious re-opening of the province in full consultation with our public health professionals.”

Ontario officials said the first step would be to resume outdoor activities with smaller crowds where the risk of transmission is lower, and permitting retail with restrictions.

A teenager receives a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 at a clinic in Toronto on Wednesday. Canada is the second country to allow use of the jab for adolescents, after Algeria © Cole Burston/Bloomberg

“This includes allowing outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people, outdoor dining with up to four people per table and non-essential retail at 15 per cent capacity,” the provincial government said in a statement.

The second step involved further expanding outdoor activities and resuming limited indoor services with small numbers of people where face coverings are worn. 

“This includes outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people, outdoor sports and leagues, overnight camps, personal care services where face coverings can be worn and with capacity limits, as well as indoor religious services, rites or ceremony gatherings at 15 per cent capacity,” the government said.

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Step three would expand access to indoor settings, with restrictions, including where there are larger numbers of people and where face coverings can’t always be worn. “This includes indoor sports and recreational fitness; indoor dining, museums, art galleries and libraries, and casinos and bingo halls, with capacity limits.”

Toronto District School Board, Canada’s largest education authority with nearly 250,000 students, said the relaxation of outdoor restrictions would herald the reopening of sports fields, basketball and tennis courts for individual use. 

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