TIMMINS -- The wait is almost over in Timmins for customers to get a bite to eat or have a beer on a restaurant's outdoor patio. Porcupine Health Unit officials say the majority of the area can get back to business – slowly -- as it moves to Step 1 of reopening.

“So we’ve done it," said Dr. Lianne Catton, medical officer of health. "We’ve seen a tremendous decrease and we’re quite confident in the rate of this decrease and the sustained decrease that we’ve seen. But it hasn’t been that long so we need to move forward with that same abundance of caution."

More people will be able to get together outside, and overnight camping will be allowed in provincial parks. Capacity levels in essential and non-essential businesses can increase slightly.

The Timmins Chamber of Commerce is relieved for its members. In a statement, chamber president Melanie Verrault said too much has been asked of the business community.

"It is immeasurable, the weight and uncertainty they've had to carry, but these are the businesses that form the fabric of our community, and we need to do all we can to ensure their continuity, recovery and future viability," Verrault said.

Catton said the only exception is Moosonee, which faces ongoing challenges to reopening, unique to its role within the James and Hudson Bay region. As a result, with strong support from Moosonee's mayor and other leaders, she said she will issue new instructions with some added restrictions to the Step 1 rules just for that community.

Regardless of where people live within the health unit's area, Catton is asking everyone to keep their guard up.

“We have seen transmission outside," she said. "We’ve seen transmission with less time of close interaction. We’ve seen it with very minimal things of people removing their masks and having a conversation for a few minutes or a few sips of coffee and being too close together."

She said vaccination rates are good, with 72 per cent of adults having received their first dose and 42 per cent of adult their second shot. She hopes more people will take advantage of the drop-in and drive-thru clinics.