CN Tower and other tourist spots reopen across Ontario
Legoland, Ripley's Aquarium and Niagara Region casinos are also reopening this week
Tourism destinations in Toronto and other cities in southern Ontario are reopening this weekend in a sign of optimism about a return to something closer to normalcy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CN Tower reopened on Friday morning along with Vaughan's Legoland, and Ripley's Aquarium is scheduled to open on Saturday. In the Niagara Region, the Fallsview Casino Resort and Casino Niagara reopened on Friday.
Toronto will also soon see the return of another major attraction: the Toronto Blue Jays will be returning to play at the Rogers Centre on July 30 after 22 months away.
"The return to Toronto of the Toronto Blue Jays and the opening of the CN Tower right in this area, in the heart of downtown, is hugely important as a symbol," said Mayor John Tory at a press conference on Friday.
"But it's also hugely important in terms of animating this part of the city and having people come back to the bars, the restaurants, the hotels and the businesses in the downtown, because that's probably one of the biggest single economic challenges we have in front of us."
Ontario reported 192 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, the most in more than two weeks, and the number of active infections in the province increased for a second straight day. The jump was relatively minor though, and case counts have been declining since they hit a peak in mid-April.
Nearly 65 per cent of Ontarians aged 12 and older have now had two doses of vaccine.
Peter George, the chief operating officer at the CN Tower, said the staff at the tower will not be asking visitors if they have received two vaccine doses.
"We are comfortable that our safety procedures are solid," he said, adding that all visitors and staff will be required to wear masks except when dining.
"I think we are very safe and I'm happy with the scenarios we have today."
George said they plan to sell a maximum of 2,500 tickets per day. Tickets for timed observation deck visits are already available and the 360 restaurant inside the CN Tower reopens for dining on July 29.
In Niagara Region, the Fallsview Casino Resort and Casino Niagara opened on Friday morning with health measures in place, including capacity limits, required face coverings, physical distancing between machines and a card system for contact tracing.
The tourism industry has been hit especially hard by the pandemic. An analysis by industry association Destination Toronto in March found that Toronto lost out on more than $8 billion in economic activity through visitor spending — a number that ballooned to more than $14 billion when the group looked at the Greater Toronto Area.