OTTAWA -- After missing out last summer, a yearly tradition was revived on a Westboro beach Monday afternoon.

“It’s the first long weekend where you feel kind of normal, but it also makes you appreciate what we took for granted,” Stephen McDermott says.

The grandfather was able to take his two grandchildren swimming, something they had been doing every year until the pandemic. Since then, holidays were spent gathering virtually.

“We come here every year to swim and make sand castles, and just play around,” Jayden, McDermott’s nine-year-old grandson explained.

For the foursome, the Civic holiday was a chance to get back to rituals.

“I hardly saw them for the last 16-18 months, so it’s great to have them out here,” McDermott says.

Across Ottawa, residents made the most of the holiday, gathering at the city’s parks and beaches.

“The weather is absolutely perfect for a nice lazy August holiday, what a way to celebrate the Civic holiday,” Rob Collier says. 

The reprieve comes as cases of COVID-19 continue to slowly trend upward across the province.

“There’s still millions of Canadians that aren’t vaccinated,” says Dr. Isaac Bogoch, a member of Ontario’s Vaccination Task Force.

“This is a very transmissible virus, especially the Delta variant. It should come to no one’s surprise that we’re going to see a rise in cases as we give this virus an opportunity to be transmitted.”

Despite warnings of a potential looming fourth wave from the country’s top doctor, Ontario is edging closer to moving past Step Three of the reopening and dropping a number of pandemic restrictions.

On Sunday, Quebec further eased restrictions, allowing bars to closer later and arenas and large venues to host up to 15,000 people.

“I love that. There was so many months we were stuck inside and now that it’s loosening up I can come in person to work here,” Rani Ganuluri, who works in Gatineau, says. 

Elsewhere, the Delta variant is rampaging across the United Kingdom and the United States. America’s top doctor, Dr. Anthony Fauci warning that more “pain and suffering” are ahead.

Bogoch says Canada shouldn’t expect to be spared the same concerns.

We’re watching that happen in just about every jurisdiction in the world that’s opening up, Canada’s going to be no different,” he notes. 

One reason for hope: Canada’s strong vaccination effort. The country is now leading Israel, the UK and the USA in percentage of people fully vaccinated.

Some Ottawa residents say it’s due to those numbers that they’re not overly concerned.

“[We should] just be mindful of the fact that we’re not quite there yet, in terms of being fully free of the pandemic,” Jack Wilson says.