Most of Mississauga, Brampton and Ontario enters first stage of reopening today

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Outdoor dining and shopping at non-essential retail stores can resume in most of Ontario today as the province enters the first stage of its economic reopening plan.

New COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations have dropped in recent weeks, allowing the province to loosen some pandemic restrictions.

Outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people and patio dining of up to four people per table are among the activities now permitted.

Non-essential stores can also reopen, with capacity limits, and outdoor fitness classes are allowed.

More restrictions will loosen after 21 days if pandemic indicators continue to improve and more people get vaccinated. 

One region in northern Ontario, the Porcupine health unit, will hold off on easing restrictions for now as infections soar.

Meanwhile, the province announced Thursday it is accelerating second doses of COVID-19 vaccines for people in Delta variant hot spots, with bookings set to open up next week.

Residents in seven designated areas who had their first dose on or before May 9 will be able to book an appointment for an earlier second shot starting Monday.

The province is also encouraging unvaccinated residents in those areas -- Toronto, Peel, Halton, Porcupine, Waterloo, York and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph -- to get immunized.

However, the government said it won't shorten the dose interval for those who received the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine as a first dose. Health Minister Christine Elliott said Ontario will stick to the 12-week interval based on the available scientific and medical evidence.

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