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Ontario is getting closer to starting its COVID-19 recovery plan, allowing some businesses shuttered during the pandemic to reopen, Premier Doug Ford said Friday.

The premier previously said Ontario's reopening would be slow and gradual. The list of businesses allowed to open Friday is slim and focused on outdoor activity, including garden centres, landscaping and several broad categories of construction projects — as laid out in the provincial reopening plan announced Monday. Bars, restaurants and most retail are excluded.

"We are allowing certain businesses to reopen under strict guidelines because we are confident they can operate safely and adapt to the current environment,” Ford said. “While further reductions in the spread are needed before we can begin reopening the province, we have the right framework and the right workplace guidelines in place to do so gradually and safely.”

Ford said the province had given businesses 60 new guidelines for worker and customer safety, with Ontario chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams giving recommendations. The province has hired additional workplace inspectors to ensure those rules are enforced.

Ford also emphasized that the province is not yet beginning its full reopening plan, which can only start when new case numbers decline for at least two weeks.

The following businesses will be allowed to open at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, May 4:

  • Garden centres and plant nurseries that can do delivery or pickup.
  • Lawn care and landscaping.
  • Some "essential" construction projects, including those for shipping and logistics, telecommunications and digital infrastructure, municipal projects, colleges and universities, child-care centres, schools and site preparation, excavation and servicing for institutional, commercial, industrial and residential development. The list also includes any other construction "that supports the improved delivery of goods and services."
  • Automatic and self-serve car washes.
  • Auto dealerships, by appointment only.

Golf courses and marinas may also start preparing for their upcoming seasons, but they are not allowed to open to the public.

Business owners worried about PPE

More businesses may be allowed to reopen soon, Ford said.

"​​​​​​We're heading in the right direction," Ford, he said. "We have reason to be optimistic."

Rocco Rossi, president and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, says businesses need more help acquiring and using PPE as they are allowed to reopen.

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce, which represents 60,000 of the province's businesses, said the government's announcement was a "thoughtful" and good step. But president and CEO Rocco Rossi also called for more help for businesses and the public in using personal protective equipment (PPE) that can greatly reduce the wearer's risk of contracting COVID-19.

“For many employers and employees, this pandemic was their first experience with using PPE and/or meeting stricter health and safety standards," Rossi said in a statement Friday. "In the rush to acquire and distribute PPE, many businesses may not have had the time or knowledge to appropriately educate their employees on best practices for use."

Rossi also said the chamber has heard from business owners worried about being able to find PPE, which has been in short supply globally for months, and being able to pay for it.

“We hope all levels of government will provide support to the business community, so that we can get our economy moving quickly and safely.”

Editor's Note: This story was updated at 5:06 p.m. Eastern time to include reaction from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and updated at 6:21 p.m. to clarify that the province's re-opening plan is not yet in motion.