BARRIE, ONT. -- Hair salons, barbershops and shopping malls across Simcoe Muskoka will be able to welcome back customers ahead of schedule as Ontario moves into Step 2 days earlier than expected.

The provincial three-step Roadmap to Reopening had Step 2 set for July 2, but on Thursday, the Ontario government confirmed the move would happen two days early.

"Because of the tireless work of our health care heroes, and the record-setting success of our vaccine rollout, we are able to move into Step 2 ahead of schedule on June 30 with the support of our public health experts," Premier Doug Ford said in a news release issued Thursday.

By mid-week, Ontario surpassed COVID-19 vaccination targets set for the next phase, which required 70 per cent of adults to have at least one shot and 20 per cent to be fully immunized.

During a COVID-19 regional update on Tuesday, Simcoe Muskoka's medical officer of health said he stands by the province's reopening plan, which sets 21 days between each step.

"The province's roadmap is very important," Dr. Charles Gardner said. "I advocate sticking to the contents of the roadmap, the timeline of the roadmap."

"Right now, we're in the first step of the roadmap, which really limits us in terms of gatherings and also prohibits us from having indoor gatherings in our private homes. It's very important that we continue with all of that," Gardner added.

Since Ontario introduced its three-step reopening plan, hairdressers across the region have pushed the government to allow them to reopen.

In-person salon services have been off-limits for much of the past year because of COVID-19 restrictions and on-again-off-again lockdowns.

In Step 2, personal care services are permitted, including tattooing and piercings, as long as face masks can be worn at all times.

Additionally, outdoor gatherings jump to 25 people, and indoor gatherings are permitted, with a five-person limit.

Capacity limits on retailers jump to 25 per cent for non-essential and 50 per cent for essential.

Here is a list of other restrictions that will ease:

  • indoor religious services, rites or ceremonies at 25 per cent capacity of the room
  • outdoor dining up to six per table
  • outdoor sports and leagues
  • outdoor meeting and event spaces with capacity limits
  • outdoor cinemas and performing arts with capacity limits
  • horse racing and motor speedways for spectators with capacity limits
  • outdoor tour and guide services with capacity limits
  • public libraries with capacity limits
  • outdoor waterparks and amusement parks with capacity limits
  • overnight camps
  • fairs and rural exhibitions with capacity limits

Based on the initial reopening plan, the province should expect to enter Step 3, which will see the removal of most COVID-19 restrictions, 21 days after moving to Step 2.

With files from The Canadian Press and CTV Toronto