Ontario to loosen COVID-19 restrictions starting June 11, ahead of schedule

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FILE PHOTO: Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Mississauga

By Moira Warburton

(Reuters) -Ontario will loosen COVID-19 restrictions starting June 11, three days ahead of schedule, Premier Doug Ford announced on Monday, as infection rates continue to drift lower after a punishing third wave while vaccinations pick up pace.

The province will enter step one of its reopening plan, allowing non-essential retail to operate at 15% capacity, outdoor dining with a maximum of four people per table, and outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people to take place.

Canada's most populous province entered a lockdown in April as a variant-driven third wave of COVID-19 threatened to overwhelm hospitals.

Although cases have been falling in recent weeks, experts recommended keeping restrictions in place until June 14 to prevent a fourth wave.

The province hit key metrics ahead of schedule, hence the earlier reopening date, the statement from the premier's office said, including a vaccination rate of 60% - Ontario currently has 72% of eligible adults who have received at least one vaccine dose.

Step one will last at least 21 days, the statement said.

(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Steve Orlofsky)

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