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COVID-19 confusion: Breaking down Ontario's colour-coded framework by region

Last Updated Nov 20, 2020 at 4:56 pm EST

A person walks past a sign advertising the last week of patio season, in Toronto, Ont., on Nov. 3, 2020, amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Rachel Verbin

If you’re confused and overwhelmed by Ontario’s recently announced COVID-19 framework, you’re not alone.

On Nov. 3, the Ford government introduced a colour-tiered system that places regions in different sector-specific zones: Green (Prevent and Standard Measures), Yellow (Protect and Strengthened Measures), Orange (Restrict  and Intermediate Measures), Red (Control and Stringent Measures), and Lockdown (Maximum Measures).

The Ford government has been heavily criticized for its framework, with many – including the Ontario Medical Association which represents thousands of provincial doctors – saying it does not go far enough to protect the people of Ontario.

On Nov. 20 the Ford government announced Toronto and Peel will enter the ‘Grey Zone – Lockdown.

Toronto and Peel – Grey (Lockdown and Maximum Measures)


On Nov. 23, Toronto and Peel will both enter the province’s lockdown measures, now known as the ‘Grey Zone.’

These new restrictions will be in effect until further notice.

Under the Ford government’s plan, Toronto’s Eileen de Villa and Peel’s Lawrence Loh have the right to enforce or modify these newly announced restrictions if seen fit.


Lockdown restrictions per Ontario’s framework:

  • Schools, before and after school programs, and child care will remain open;
  • Post-secondary schools open for virtual learning with some limited exceptions for training that can only be provided in-person, such as clinical training or training related to a trade;
  • No indoor organized public events or social gatherings except with members of the same household. Individuals who live alone, including seniors, may consider having exclusive, close contact with one other person;
  • Outdoor organized public events or social gatherings limited to a maximum of 10 people;
  • Wedding services, funeral services and religious services, rites or ceremonies where physical distancing can be maintained can have up to 10 people indoors or 10 people outdoors;
  • Retail permitted to be open for curbside pick-up or delivery only, with certain exceptions such as for supermarkets, grocery stores, pharmacies, hardware stores, discount and big box retailers selling groceries, beer, wine and liquor stores, safety supply stores, and convenience stores, which will be allowed to operate at 50 per cent capacity;
  • Restaurants, bars, and food and drink establishments will only be able to provide takeout, drive-through and delivery. Indoor and outdoor dining services are prohibited;
  • Personal care services closed;
  • Casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments closed; and
  • Indoor sports and recreational facilities, including pools, closed with limited exceptions.


Malls: Will remain open, for the purpose of accessing business that are permitted to be open. Those essential businesses are subject to 50 per cent capacity limit. All other retail outlets in malls will go to curb side pickup or delivery only.


York Region, Halton and Durham – Red Control (Stringent Measures):


Durham is the latest GTA-based region to move to the province’sRed-Control‘ zone.

Citing a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases, an updated list of restrictions came into effect in York Region on Nov. 16. York Region was previously under ‘Orange-Restrict‘.

Similar to York and Durham, Halton – as well as Hamilton – are the other jurisdictions now under ‘Red-Control‘.

Halton was previously under ‘Yellow-Protect‘, with provincial health officials determining the region as high risk.

Social Gathering limits including public events: 

  • 10 people indoors
  • 25 people outdoors


Religious services, weddings and funerals:

  • 30 per cent capacity indoors
  • 100 people outdoors


Restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments:

  • Maximum number of patrons permitted to be seated indoors is 10
  • Require patrons to be seated; 2 metre minimum between tables
  • Outdoor dining, take out, drive through, and delivery permitted
  • Dancing, singing and the live performance of brass or wind instruments are prohibited
  • Require patron contact info (one per party)
  • No buffet style service
  • Night clubs only permitted to operate as restaurant or bar
  • Line-ups and patrons congregating outside venues managed by venue; 2 metres distance and face covering required
  • Face coverings except when eating or drinking only
  • Eye protection where patrons without face coverings are within 2 metres of workers
  • Limit operating hours, establishments close at 10 p.m.
  • Liquor sold or served only between 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • No consumption of liquor permitted between 10 p.m. to 9 a.m.
  • Require contact information for all seated patrons
  • Limit of 4 people may be seated together
  • Limit volume of music (to be no louder than the volume of a normal conversation)
  • Require screening of patrons (for example, questionnaire)
  • Closure of strip clubs


Gyms and Fitness centres:

  • Maximum 50 people per facility (revoke OCMOH approved plan) in all combined recreational fitness spaces or programs (not pools, rinks at arenas, community centres, and multi-purpose facilities)
  • Gyms and fitness studios permitted to be open with:
    • 10 people indoors (classes)
    • 25 people outdoors (classes)
    • 10 people indoors (areas with weights or exercise equipment)
  • All sports and recreational programs in other facilities (arenas and multiplexes) limited to 10 people per room indoors and 25 outdoors
  • Team sports must not be practiced or played except for training (no games or scrimmage)
  • No contact permitted for team or individual sports
  • No spectators permitted (exemption for parent and guardian supervision of children)
  • Exemption for high performance athletes and parasports
  • Limit duration of stay to 90 minutes except if engaging in sport
  • Limit volume of music to conversation level and prevent shouting by both instructors and members of the public
  • Face coverings required except when exercising
  • Increase spacing between patrons to 3 metres for areas of a sport or recreational facility where there are weights or weight machines and exercise and fitness classes
  • Require contact information for all patrons and attendance for team sports
  • Require reservation for entry; one reservation for teams
  • Require screening of members of the public, including spectators (for example, questionnaire)
  • A safety plan must be available upon request


Meeting and event spaces:

  • Maximum of 50 people per facility (revoke capacity limit on a per room basis as per OCMOH plan)
  • Facility limits:
    • 10 people indoors
    • 25 people outdoors
  • Booking multiple rooms for the same event not permitted
  • Limit operating hours, establishments must close at 10 p.m.
  • Liquor sold or served only between 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • No consumption of liquor permitted between 10 p.m. to 9 a.m.
  • Require contact information for all seated patrons
  • Limit of 4 people may be seated together
  • Limit volume of music (to be no louder than the volume of a normal conversation)
  • Require screening of patrons (for example, questionnaire)


Casinos, Bingo halls and gaming establishments: Open but with strict restrictions in place, such as limits of 10 people per facility indoors and 25 people outdoors.

Malls: Open

With strict restrictions in place, such as limiting capacity in stores and limiting 10 patrons permitted to be seated indoors inside a mall food court.

Cinemas: Closed

Except for drive-ins and performances or rehearsals for a broadcasted event

  • Limit of 50 people per facility (revoke OCMOH approved plan)
  • Face coverings except when eating or drinking only


Performing arts facilities: 

  • Closed to spectators
  • Rehearsal or performing a recorded or broadcasted event permitted


*Subject to change if restrictions are modified by local health officials

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