OTTAWA -- Ottawa’s medical officer of health suggests Ottawa and Ontario are entering “unknown territory” as COVID-19 restrictions are slowly lifted.

Ontario will allow gardening centres to reopen on Friday, while hardware and safety supply stores can open on Saturday. Starting Monday, businesses with a street entrance will be allowed to open for curbside pickup only.

Speaking on CTV Morning Live, Dr. Vera Etches was asked by host Leslie Roberts if this is the beginning of the “new normal” in the COVID-19 world.

“We don’t know, we’re going into unknown territory. We have seen other countries around the world be able to progress like this and further,” said Dr. Etches.

“What’s important is the actions of everyone in this city will be what determines our future. The people of Ottawa have done such a good job of protecting themselves and protecting others by keeping distance between us, that’s the same going forward.”

Dr. Etches reminded everyone to continue practicing physical distancing as the parks and businesses reopen, saying “as long as we keep remembering that two metres between others is what’s protecting us.”

The medical officer of health says she “fully endorses” Premier Doug Ford’s slow and safe approach to reopening businesses and other amenities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Holding this virus”

There have been 1,558 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa, including 139 deaths.

“I’m not satisfied with the numbers. I’d love to see a really steep decline in hospitalizations and evidence that we’re pushing this virus right out of existence,” said Dr. Etches.

“Unfortunately, what we see is that we’re holding this virus and level of infection at a manageable level. So that means there’s a continued risk in our community that if we increase our interactions with others too much, the level of infection could go up again quickly.”