Toronto and Peel Region will remain under a stay-at-home order for at least another two weeks but some restrictions will be eased in York Region next week as it enters the red zone of the province’s reopening framework, the province announced Friday.
At the request of the medical officers of health in both Peel Region and Toronto, strict lockdown measures will be maintained in the two COVID-19 hot spots until at least March 8, the Ford government says.
A stay-at-home order will also remain in effect for the North Bay-Parry Sound District Health Unit.
While those three regions will not be rejoining the province’s colour-coded reopening framework, York Region, which has seen slightly less community transmission of the novel coronavirus in recent weeks, will be placed in the red or “control” zone of the framework on Monday.
Over the past week, York Region’s medical officer of health, Dr. Karim Kurji, and local mayors had repeatedly requested that the region enter the red zone, which allows indoor dining to resume and gyms and hair salons to reopen with reduced capacity.
Outdoor gatherings of no more than 25 people and indoor gatherings of no more than five are also permitted in the red zone. Weddings and religious services can resume with 30 per cent indoor capacity and no more than 100 people outdoors.
“While the health indicators have improved enough to allow us to return an additional region to the Framework, we are not yet at the point where we can safely transition back the remainder of the province,” Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said in a news release.
“Everyone is strongly advised to continue staying at home, avoid social gatherings, only travel between regions for essential purposes, and limit close contacts to your household or those you live with regardless of which level of the Framework you are in.”
Most regions of the province have transitioned back to the framework over the past two weeks following declining COVID-19 case counts, deaths, and hospitalizations.
In one region of the province, however, concerning public health trends have prompted the province to introduce more restrictions.
“Lambton Public Health will be moving from the Orange-Restrict level to the Red-Control level as a result worsening public health trends in the region over the past week,” the Ford government confirmed Friday.
Niagara Region’s medical officer of health also requested last week that his region stay in the grey or “lockdown” zone, which keeps most businesses closed with the exception of retail.
In the grey zone of the province’s updated framework, all retail stores, including “non-essential” shops, can reopen to customers with just 25 per cent of their regular indoor capacity. This now also applies to big box stores that do not primarily sell groceries or other essential items. Grocery stores, pharmacies, and convenience stores can all operate at 50 per cent capacity in the grey zone.
Medical officers of health in Toronto, Peel Region, and the North Bay Perry Sound District Health Unit have asked for tougher public health measures to remain in effect due to higher levels of transmission in the regions and concerns over how more transmissible COVID-19 variants are circulating in the community.
On Friday, Ontario reported an additional 39 confirmed cases of COVID-19 variants, bringing the total to at least 395. Officials have said that hundreds of additional samples have screened positive for a variant of concern and the variants are likely circulating much more widely than is being detected.