Ontario won’t revert to the colour-coded system as part of its plan to lift COVID-19 lockdown restrictions after June 2, Premier Doug Ford’s office confirmed Friday.
While the government is working on an “exit plan” from the stay-at-home orders, the previous colour scheme, which allowed low-virus regions to reopen faster, is not in the cards, Ivana Yelich, director of media relations for the premier, told media Thursday.
Christine Wood, who also speaks for the premier’s office, confirmed the policy on Friday.
That’s bad news for the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit and other regions of Eastern Ontario in which COVID-19 is lower than the provincial hot spots in the Toronto-Peel-York hub.
On Friday, the local health unit reported 26 active cases, continuing a steady weeklong decline in COVID-19 numbers.
At those numbers, Leeds, Grenville and Lanark would be in the low Yellow category under the previous colour coding that allowed bars, restaurants, gyms, outdoor recreation sites, stores and such personal services as hairdressers to operate with limited restrictions.
On Friday, there were 2,362 new COVID-19 cases in Ontario. More than half – 1,478 cases – were in the three regions of Toronto, Peel and York.
In comparison, the six health units that make up Ontario Health’s Eastern Ontario region had a total of 130 of those provincewide numbers. Ottawa accounted for 99 of the Eastern Ontario numbers, leaving 31 cases spread among the five other health units in the region, including Leeds, Grenville and Lanark that reported zero new cases.
The six health units in Northern Ontario also were doing well, reporting 37 new cases across the sprawling region on Friday.
Ford announced this week that the lockdown orders, which were set to expire on May 20, would be extended until at least June 2.
The premier and Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, indicated the easing of lockdown restrictions would start with outdoor recreation activities and gradually progress to other sectors as COVID numbers and the impact on hospital intensive care units allow.
They also said vaccination levels would factor into the decision, predicting 65 per cent of Ontarians aged 18 and older would have the vaccine by the end of May.
As of Thursday, people aged 40 and older were able to book a vaccine appointment on the provincial website. Over the coming weeks the age limit will be progressively lowered to 18. On May 31, the province would start vaccinating youths aged 12 to 17, Ford said.