Ontario needs ‘continued reduction’ in COVID-19 to loosen restrictions: Health Minister

TORONTO — Basketball courts and golf courses will remain closed until the province’s COVID-19 case counts are reduced, according to Ontario’s Health Minister, but the Progressive Conservative government isn’t providing the metrics the province needs to achieve to reopen outdoor amenities.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said while the government is assessing the closures “on a daily basis” outdoor recreational activities are still off-limits to allow transmission rates to drop. 

“We have seen a lessening of case rates in the last several days, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a trend,” Elliott told reporters at Queen’s Park. “We still need to stay at home as much as possible, we need to limit our mobility as much as possible to reduce transmission.”

Ontario reported fewer than 3,000 new infections Tuesday for the first time since the beginning of April, but the government could not say when the province will be able to roll back pandemic restrictions, or the benchmarks to initiate a reopening.

“There isn’t an exact rate at this point but our medical experts are telling us that we need to see a continued reduction before we can start thinking about opening things up again,” Elliott said. 

While the province has seen positive signs, Ontario’s COVID-19 cases are still far above the threshold of the “Red-Control” criteria set out in the province’s re-opening framework. 

Regions were permitted to enter the red zone once their weekly incidence rate reached 40 per 100,000. Currently Ontario’s weekly incidence rate sits at 190 per 100,000. 

Similarly the province recorded a 9.1 per cent positivity rate, far higher than the 2.5 per cent needed to be designated as a red zone. 

Elliott said the government also needs to see dramatic improvements in hospital and ICU admissions before considering any loosening of restrictions – currently there are 886 people in intensive care. 

“For right now, we will need to continue with those measures in place to reduce mobility and reduce transmission,” Elliott said 

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