Premier Doug Ford is extending Ontario’s emergency orders until the end of the month even though the province’s economy is gradually opening up as new COVID-19 cases start to dwindle.

Ford on Wednesday announced that all emergency orders in force under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act will remain in effect until June 30.

That’s the same day the province’s state of emergency, which has been in place since March 17, is due to expire. By law, the orders must be spelled out and renewed every fortnight even during an emergency.

The premier said another extension was necessary to ensure the government can safely and gradually reopen the province.”

“Extending these emergency orders gives our front-line health care providers the necessary flexibility to rapidly respond to urgent needs and protect our most vulnerable,” he said in a statement.

“Even though we’re seeing decreasing infection rates with increased testing levels, we can’t let our guard down just yet,” said Ford.

“We need to keep these emergency measures in place to support our frontline heroes and we must all continue following the public health advice, so we can reopen more of the province safely and gradually.”

As of this Friday, every part of Ontario except the city of Toronto, Peel Region, and Windsor-Essex, will have moved to the second stage of reopening, which allows additional businesses — including restaurants with patios, barbers, and hair salons — to open.

That means more services and freedoms for people in Halton, Durham, York, Muskoka, and Hamilton after months of being locked down.

Effective across Ontario last Friday, the government allowed gatherings of up to 10 people as well as “social circles” to allow households to “bubble” together.

“Social circles are different from social gatherings. A social circle is voluntary, but if adopted should include all household members, and can include family and friends outside the household up to a maximum of 10 people in the social circle,” the government said in a statement.

But Ford reiterated that people should maintain a safe physical distance of two metres while out in public or shopping. On Tuesday, he also urged Ontarians to wear non-medical masks when out and about if they cannot keep two metres apart.

“I highly, highly recommend when you go out, wear a face mask of some sort. Simple as that. You’re going into a store, wear a face mask of some sort.”

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Sign Up NowRobert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

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