Starting Wednesday, three regions in Ontario will no longer be subject to the province’s emergency stay-at-home order, according to Premier Doug Ford, and will be officially classified in the green level of the coronavirus reopening plan.
Areas under Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington Public Health, Hastings Prince Edward Public Health and the Renfrew County District Health Unit will be moving back to the province’s most relaxed stage of its colour-coded framework as planned on Feb. 10, while the rest of the province continues to be under the stay-at-home order until Feb. 16, except the Toronto, Peel and York regions, which will continue to be under order until Feb. 22.
The province said these three regions are allowed to exit the state of emergency earlier than the rest of Ontario due to lower local transmission of COVID-19, improving hospital capacity and better capacity for case and contact management.
Minister of Health Christine Elliott noted that despite reports of Timiskaming moving back to the framework this week, a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the region is being screened for a possible variant of concern.
“With these dangerous variants potentially circulating in these communities, now is not the time to roll back public health measures,” Elliott said.
As of Monday, the Kingston region has 15 active cases of the virus, the Renfrew region has four active cases while the Hastings and Prince Edward regions have six cases.
The entire province saw just about 1,260 new cases of the virus Monday, with 33 new deaths.
Under the green zone, most businesses and activities that were shuttered in the provincewide lockdown starting Dec. 26, 2020 will be able to reopen, like restaurants and small businesses.
Gathering limits will remain as they were before the lockdown: 25 people outdoors and 10 people indoors, unless it’s organized by a business or organization, then 50 people will be allowed indoors and 100 people outdoors with social distancing.
In the green zone, restaurants and bars can reopen with many of the same rules allowed before the provincewide lockdown, including requiring face masks except for when eating and drinking.
Night clubs can only run as restaurants or bars, karaoke bars can reopen and dancing, singing and performing music is permitted with restrictions.
Sports and recreation facilities, cinemas and meeting and event spaces will be allowed to reopen with capacity limited to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.
The province is also reworking limitations for its grey and red zones, allowing retail stores to open, but with capacity limits not applied in the lower colour-coded zones.
But Ontario health officials have installed an “emergency brake” into the new system that will allow the province to move any zone back into lockdown if case counts start to rise.
“If this occurs, the Chief Medical Officer of Health, in consultation with the local medical officer of health, may advise immediately moving a region into grey-lockdown to interrupt transmission,” the province said.