Pandemic restrictions eased and a stay-at-home order was lifted in most Ontario health units this week as the province moves forward with its gradual reopening plan.
Toronto, Peel Region, York Region, and North Bay Parry Sound is set to remain under the stay-at-home order until at least Feb. 22 but the order lifts for 27 Ontario public health units as of Tuesday.
The units will now return to the province’s COVID-19 colour-coded tiered ranking system used prior to a provincewide lockdown which began on Boxing Day.
Niagara Region will be the only region in the grey-lockdown zone — the most strict level — which allows businesses to open at 25 percent capacity.
- Niagara Region Public Health
- Chatham-Kent Public Health;
- City of Hamilton Public Health Services;
- Durham Region Health Department;
- Halton Region Public Health;
- Middlesex-London Health Unit;
- Region of Waterloo Public Health and Emergency Services;
- Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit;
- Southwestern Public Health;
- Thunder Bay District Health Unit;
- Wellington-Dufferin Guelph Public Health; and
- Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.
- Brant County Health Unit;
- Eastern Ontario Health Unit;
- Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit;
- Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit;
- Huron Perth Public Health;
- Lambton Public Health;
- Ottawa Public Health;
- Porcupine Health Unit; and
- Public Health Sudbury and Districts.
- Algoma Public Health;
- Grey Bruce Health Unit;
- Northwestern Health Unit; and
- Peterborough Public Health.
- Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit; and
- Timiskaming Health Unit.
Hastings Prince Edward, Kingston, Frontenac, and Lennox & Addington, and Renfrew County and District all entered the province’s “Green-Prevent” zone last week.
The three GTA hot spots, Toronto, Peel, and York, will return to the province’s colour-coded public health restriction framework on Feb. 22 — and the timing has given rise to concern from local health officials.
There is mounting criticism that the province is moving too fast in loosening restrictions, especially in the face of new more infectious strains of the virus.
“I wouldn’t call it reopening, I’d call it transitioning,” said Ford. “We are taking this very cautiously, very slowly.”
Ford says he is concerned about a potential third wave of the pandemic on the horizon and says he will not hesitate to put restrictions back into place if the doctors tell him it’s not safe.
Dr. Lawrence Loh, medical officer of health for Peel Region, has said he supports reopening schools but further economic reopening is risky.
“Anything beyond schools at this point in time, I really think we need to take a very close look at,” Loh said in an interview.
He said some other sectors may not have the same safety precautions in place, and the new variants may be spreading in different ways, meaning the current provincial framework might not be best suited to controlling the pandemic now.
“We know that as the variants are here and being detected in alarming frequency, we really do need to also reconsider the whole context and picture has changed as well,” he said.
The province has said it will use an “emergency brake” measure to move regions back into lockdown quickly if it is deemed necessary.
“I’ve listened to the health experts since day one,” said Ford. “I encourage everyone to continue to follow the protocols.”
Ontario released the latest round of COVID-19 modelling and projections on Thursday highlighting its strong focus on the B.1.1.7 variant first discovered in the United Kingdom, with health experts saying the strain could “soon dominate” the province.
The modelling showed that with no restrictions in place, in a best-case scenario, Ontario could see roughly 2,000 cases a day by the end of March. In a worst-case scenario, Ontario could see around 6,000 new cases per day.
With files from the Canadian Press