Public health restrictions loosened in three Ontario regions with low rates of COVID-19 on Wednesday, with local officials warning that visitors from other areas weren’t welcome at reopened businesses.
The provincial government is gradually rolling back a stay-at-home order as regions move to a colour-coded pandemic restrictions system in the coming days.
Hastings Prince Edward; Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington; and Renfrew County transitioned to the least-restrictive green category of the system on Wednesday, which meant restaurants and non-essential businesses could reopen.
The rest of the province, except for three hot spots in the Greater Toronto Area, moves to the restrictions system next week, with the category regions are placed in dependent on local case rates.
In Hastings Prince Edward, an order from the medical officer of health that went into effect Wednesday meant only people from regions not under a stay-at-home order could make reservations for dining, accommodation or personal services.
The order also requires businesses to take contact information from patrons and to play music “no louder than the volume of a normal conversation.” Violations carry a potential fines up to $5,000 for each day of the offence.
The region’s top doctor, Dr. Piotr Oglaza, noted the continuing risk to residents from COVID-19 and cited the risk of new, more infectious variants detected in the province.
‘We must remember this is not a return to normal,” Oglaza said in a statement.
“In order to maintain our progress, all residents are asked to remain thoughtful about daily choices, as our actions can have a huge impact on efforts to stop the spread of illness.”
The top doctor in Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington also discouraged outside visitors, though he stopped short of issuing an official order.
“It is absolutely not an invitation for anyone else to come to our region,” Dr. Kieran Moore told reporters.
He asked people to remain vigilant and said additional measures might follow if the situation changes.
“We will monitor the situation closely and will not hesitate to put additional measures in place if rates of transmission increase in the region,” he said in a statement.
In Renfrew County, the region’s top doctor applauded residents for working to keep cases low, but advised people to continue staying home where possible and limit travel between areas under different restrictions.
“Please remember that this does not mean we can let our guard down,” Dr. Robert Cushman said in a statement.
Ontario’s daily infections have dropped since the province introduced the stay-at-home order last month, but officials have said the spread of new, more infectious variants are a concern.
Ontario reported 1,072 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday and 41 more deaths linked to the virus.
The province also reported that 1,709 more cases were resolved since Tuesday’s report.