OTTAWA -- Some relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions is coming to Ottawa and eastern Ontario by the end of this week.

Some restrictions on many businesses, including malls, restaurants and hair salons will be lifted starting June 12.

This regional approach comes after weeks of discussion and a change of mind by the premier.

Ottawa Public Health is one of Ontario's 34 public health units that will be permitted to move to Stage 2 of reopening as of 12:01 a.m. Friday.

On Twitter, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson called it an important step towards revitalizing the local economy.

Ottawa Public Health reported two new cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa on Monday, alongside two new deaths. The number of active cases of the disease has been steadily falling in Ottawa since May, and currently sits at 81, with 31 people in hospital.

In a statement posted to Ottawa Public Health's website, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches said OPH is reviewing how to approach the reopening.

"We are currently reviewing the approach and how it impacts us here in Ottawa and I am confident that we can enter Stage 2 with ongoing care. The data shows that Ottawa residents have heard our public health messaging loud and clear, and it is your actions that have allowed us to transition into this new stage," Dr. Etches said.

City Council will vote on a plan June 10 to waive the road use by-law for the purposes of allowing businesses to establish a retail pop-up or expanded patio, while still maintaining a two-metre clearance for pedestrians. There is also talk of closing some streets in the ByWard Market to cars to allow restaurants to expand their patios.

Other eastern Ontario regions that will be permitted to move ahead on June 12 include:

  • Eastern Ontario Health Unit
  • Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health
  • Leeds Grenville & Lanark District Health Unit
  • Renfrew County and District Health Unit

"Stage 2 will allow people to resume many parts of their daily life," Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Monday. "We're moving forward with a regional approach, an approach that lets us make decisions for specific regions, based on advice from the chief medical officer of health."

André Schad, owner of the Tavern on the Hill in Major's Hill Park, tells CTV News his mood shifted as soon as he heard the news.

"It's like night and day," he says. "Grumpy old guy this morning, pretty happy now. We can start planning our future a little bit, getting people on payroll and getting structured."

Schad says a lot of planning will be going into setting up the seasonal patio with physical distancing restrictions in mind.

"The NCC are helping us with some extra big space. That takes a lot of planning and a lot of figuring out the process: how it's going to work with service and bussing tables and getting drinks out to the new patio," he says. "It's exciting though. We're up to the challenge!"

Tavern on the Hill Patio

Areas in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, and the border regions of Windsor-Essex and Lambton, will remain in Stage 1 until at least June 19.

Speaking to reporters at Queen's Park on Monday, Premier Ford said people will be able to travel between regions. 

"I've heard from a lot of cottage country mayors who've said, 'Come up north.' Before, I said bring your own supplies but now they're saying come and shop in their local stores," Ford said. "We opened up the camping grounds, so, they can travel."

Health Minister Christine Elliott said they will be keeping a close watch on the number of cases in Ontario's regions as the reopening proceeds.

"We do expect people will be moving around more now, but we're going to continue to use the same metrics we always have to determine success and that's a decrease in the overall number of cases," she said. "If we're moving too fast, we may need to slow down a little bit or, if things continue to look good, we'll be able to move forward."

According to the province, businesses and services permitted to reopen with proper health and safety measures in place in regions entering Stage 2 include:

  • Outdoor dine-in services at restaurants, bars and other establishments, including patios, curbside, parking lots and adjacent properties;
  • Select personal and personal care services with the proper health and safety measures in place, including tattoo parlours, barber shops, hair salons and beauty salons;
  • Shopping malls under existing restrictions, including food services reopening for take-out and outdoor dining only;
  • Tour and guide services, such as bike and walking, bus and boat tours, as well as tasting and tours for wineries, breweries and distilleries;
  • Water recreational facilities such as outdoor splash pads and wading pools, and all swimming pools;
  • Beach access and additional camping at Ontario Parks;
  • Camping at private campgrounds;
  • Outdoor-only recreational facilities and training for outdoor team sports, with limits to enable physical distancing;
  • Drive-in and drive-through venues for theatres, concerts, animal attractions and cultural appreciation, such as art installations;
  • Film and television production activities, with limits to enable physical distancing; and
  • Weddings and funerals, with limits on social gatherings to 10 people.

Ontario is also allowing places of worship to reopen, with attendance limited to 30 per cent capacity, with physical distancing rules in place. 

Social gatherings are being increased to allow up to 10 people, with physical distancing. The limit on social gatherings is being raised provincewide, despite the regional differences for businesses.

On Instagram, the St. Laurent Shopping Centre said it would be reopening Friday, with a limited number of stores initially, and take-out only in the food court.

"We plan to re-open all our doors on Friday, June 12th with modified operating hours of Monday to Saturday 11 am to 7pm and Sunday 12pm to 5pm," the post said.