Ontario has announced Toronto and Peel Region will move into the grey zone of the province’s COVID-19 reopening framework Monday, lifting the stay-at-home order and allowing some businesses to open their doors for the first time since last November.
The Ford government made the announcement on Friday, saying that the stay-at-home order will expire at midnight on Sunday.
North Bay Parry Sound District, which also sees its stay-at-home order lift, will join the framework in the red level.
In addition, the government said seven other public health regions will also be moving to different levels in the framework.
Peterborough, Sudbury and Simcoe-Muskoka are moving to the red level, while Haldimand-Norfolk and Timiskaming Health Unit are moving to the orange zone.
Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge and Renfrew County are moving to the yellow zone.
All the changes come into effect at 12:01 a.m. on March 8, the government said.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said the government is taking a “safe and cautious approach” to ending the provincewide shutdown.
“Despite this positive step forward, a return to the framework is not a return to normal,” she said in a statement.
“As we continue vaccinating more Ontarians, it remains critical for everyone to continue to follow public health measures and stay home as much as possible to protect themselves, their loved ones and their communities.”
What can reopen in Toronto and Peel Region?
Under the grey zone, in-person shopping is permitted for retail stores with stringent capacity limits. Essential stores like supermarkets and pharmacies have a 50 per cent capacity limit in this stage, while all other stores have a 25 per cent capacity limit.
In this stage, 10 people are allowed to gather outdoors but two metres distance needs to be maintained. Masks are strongly recommended when outside.
Outdoor recreational amenities, including ice rinks, ski hills and snow trails are allowed to open with restrictions.
All other restrictions from the four other stages will continue in the grey-lockdown phase.
The government extended the stay-at-home order for Toronto, Peel Region and North Bay two weeks ago due to high COVID-19 case numbers.
Restrictions loosened in the rest of the province last month as regions moved back to the government’s colour-coded pandemic response framework.
Top doctors in Toronto and Peel recommended this week that their regions move into the grey-lockdown zone of the framework.
The province’s chief medical officer says he’s concerned about test positivity rates and more infectious variants in those regions, and that the reopening must be cautious.
The reopening announcement comes on the same day that Ontario reported a surge in the number of new COVID-19 cases.
The 1,250 new infections mark an increase over Thursday’s report when 994 cases were logged.
This is the first time in three consecutive days that the province has added more than 1,000 new cases of the novel coronavirus.