Ontario residents could see the vast majority of COVID-19 restrictions lifted in August, allowing them to finish the summer in near pre-pandemic conditions.

On Friday, Canada’s most populous province announced it was moving into Step Three of its reopening plan sooner than expected, as vaccination rates continue to exceed targets.

“While this is exciting news, we must still remain vigilant and continue to follow the public health measures we know work and keep us safe,” Christine Elliott, deputy premier and minister of health, said in a written statement. “Vaccines remain our ticket out of the pandemic.”

Indoor dining will reopen in the province on July 16, with capacity restrictions based on the ability to separate patrons by two meters, or about seven feet. Retailers and religious venues will be allowed to host as many people as the same distancing restriction allows.

As many as 25 people will be allowed to gather indoors and 100 outdoors, with some exceptions.

Local jurisdictions in the province can opt to keep stricter measures in place, Ontario’s chief medical officer, Kieran Moore, said at a news conference. The City of Toronto said it is ready to move to the looser provincial rules on July 16.

The province will remain in Step Three for at least 21 days. But if vaccination thresholds are met -- including 75 per cent of the population having received two doses -- the “vast majority” of outstanding restrictions will be lifted, the government said.

On Thursday, neighboring Quebec said it plans to keep restaurants and other venues open, even if there’s a resurgence of cases, by allowing only those with vaccine passports inside.

After a rough start, Canada’s vaccination efforts have gained momentum, with more than three-quarters of the national population over age 12 receiving at least one dose and 46 per cent having received two. Ontario has done slightly better with over 50 per cent having received both doses.

However, Ontario has also had higher case counts than other provinces, and the majority of them are now caused by the highly contagious delta variant, Moore said.

Because of that, a 21-day return to normal is an “ambitious” target, Moore said, but he’s still optimistic. “These vaccines are doing the job,” he said.