OTTAWA -- The ByWard Market was buzzing with crowds it hasn't seen in months during the first Saturday in Step 1 of Ontario's COVID-19 reopening plan.

Patrons filled patios throughout the day, and local shops saw more foot traffic as many shared a feeling of progress.

"I’ve been waiting for this day for a really long time. It’s great to be outside and see other people, interact with other people," said Gilles Taillefer, who was spending the day downtown.

"I think we’re at a point where we’re starting to feel optimistic and hopeful, which is a big change from where we were a while ago," said Julie Compton who lives nearby.

Saturday’s rush came on the heels of the first full night since reopening, that saw a once silent ByWard Market come alive overnight. 

"It was busy, it was fun and all throughout the day you could almost feel this special kind of electricity in the air, it was almost surreal," said David Mangano, owner of The Grand Pizzeria.

"I think for small business it was getting to a breaking point. I think that we had to get open or it could have been disastrous."

Parking lots in the downtown were packed Saturday too, spots were hard to come, a sure sign of those eager for a taste of freedom.

While buzzing streets brought joy to many businesses, for others still stuck on the sidelines, like hair salons, it brought frustration.

"It’s definitely a bit difficult to see. I’m happy that things are starting to open up, I’m happy for everybody but the frustration is there," said Walid Zurub, owner of Salon Salwa.

But as restrictions loosen and crowds grow, there is a renewed plea from medical experts to move ahead with caution.

"We can’t throw out the mask and forget about social distancing and being cautious, not yet," said Dr. Ronald St. John, the former federal manager to the SARS response in Canada.

Here's is a look at what's allowed to open in Ottawa in Step One of the Roadmap to Reopen plan:

  • Outdoor dining with up to four people per table, with exceptions for larger households
  • Non-essential retail permitted at 15 per cent capacity, with no restrictions on the goods that can be sold
  • Essential and other select retail permitted at 25 per cent capacity, with no restrictions on the goods that can be sold
  • Outdoor religious services, rites, or ceremonies, including wedding services and funeral services, capped at the number of people that can maintain a physical distance of two metres
  • Outdoor fitness classes, outdoor groups in personal training and outdoor individual/team sport training to be permitted with up to 10 people
  • Movie theatre drive-ins are permitted to open
  • Day camps for children permitted to operate
  • Overnight camping at campgrounds and campsites are allowed to open, including Ontario Parks, and short-term rentals
  • Outdoor horse racing tracks and motor speedways permitted to operate without spectators
  • Outdoor attractions such as zoos, landmarks and historic sites may open with capacity and other restrictions

Retail stores in malls must remain closed unless the stores have a street-facing entrance.