The Ontario government has extended the stay-at-home order for most of the province but will begin to transition back to the colour-coded shutdown system through a regional approach as the gradual reopening of the economy begins.
Premier Doug Ford made the announcement on Monday at Queen’s Park, saying that while the state of emergency will expire in Ontario on Tuesday night, the stay-at-home order will stay in effect in Toronto, Peel Region and York Region until at least Feb. 22.
In all other regions – except for Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington Public Health, Hasting Prince Edward Public Health and Renfrew County and District Health Unit – the stay-at-home order will stay in effect until Feb. 16.
The stay-at-home order will expire in those three regions on Feb. 10 and they will transition to the green level of the colour-coded shutdown system, meaning indoor dining, bars, and malls can reopen.
The tiered system is what Ontario was using before the entire province went into lockdown on Dec. 26. The green, yellow, orange, red, black, and grey levels all come with various levels of restrictions.
The government said final decisions will be made prior to the Feb. 16 and Feb. 22 dates for the remainder of the province as to whether the stay-at-home order can be safely lifted.
If the government deems it safe enough to lift the stay-at-home order on those dates, regions would be placed into the colour-coded system at a level that aligns with their current public health trends.
“My friends, we can’t return to normal,” Ford said. “But we can transition out of the province-wide shutdown.”
“It’s still up to each one of us because we’re not out of the woods yet. I’m still concerned about these variants. We can’t let our guard down now.”
In-person shopping will be allowed in grey zones
Regions that are placed into the grey level of the province’s colour-coded system will be allowed to resume in-person shopping with capacity limits of 25 per cent in most retail settings.
There will be a 50 per cent capacity limit for supermarkets and other stores that primarily sell groceries, convenience stores and pharmacies.
The 25 per cent capacity limit will be on all other retail, including discount and big box retailers, liquor stores, hardware stores and garden centres.
Personal care services must remain closed under the grey level.
Under the grey level, 10 people will be allowed to gather outdoors with physical distancing in effect.
“Our number one priority will always be protecting the health and safety of all individuals, families and workers across the province,” Ford said. “But we must also consider the severe impact COVID-19 is having on our businesses. That’s why we have been listening to business owners, and we are strengthening and adjusting the framework to allow more businesses to safely reopen and get people back to work.”
The government said any regions that have a “rapid increase in COVID-19 transmission or if its health-care system risks becoming overwhelmed” will be immediately placed back into lockdown to interrupt transmission.
“Let me be clear, if we see the numbers spike again, we are prepared to take further action as necessary,” Ford said. “We need to keep bending the curve, and we need to stay home as much as possible.”
The government made other modifications to the colour-coded system, which can all be found here.
Framework allows for ’emergency brake system’
“While we have seen some progress in our fight against COVID-19, the situation in our hospitals remains precarious and the new variants pose a considerable threat to all of us,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said Monday. “As we cautiously transition out of the province-wide shutdown, we have developed an emergency brake system giving us the flexibility to contain community spread quickly in a specific region, providing an extra layer of protection.”
Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health said that Monday’s announcement is not a “return to normal” and that people should still only leave their houses for essential reasons.
“While we are seeing our numbers trend in the right direction, our situation remains precarious as the variants of concern remain a serious risk,” Williams said.
The government said enforcement of residential evictions will also remain paused in the public health unit regions where the provincial stay-at-home order remains in effect.
In regions where the stay-at-home order is lifted, the regular process for residential eviction enforcement will resume.