The provincial government has made a series of modifications to its COVID-19 framework that will see personal care services such as hair and nail salons, as well as outdoor fitness classes, resume in regions under “Grey-Lockdown.”
Effective Monday, March 29 at 12:01 a.m., the Ford government announced that it will begin to permit outdoor fitness classes, among other designations and forms of fitness, including a maximum of 10 patrons and active patron screening.
Effective a few weeks later, on Monday, April 12 at 12:01 a.m., personal care services including but not limited to barber shops, hair and nail salons, and body art establishments, will be permitted to operate at a limited capacity on an appointment basis only.
Hair and nail salons, as well as tattoo parlours located in Toronto, will have been closed for 140 days since the lockdown went into effect on November 23.
Also as of Monday, marinas and boating clubs can resume operations of clubhouses or any restaurant, bar, and other food or drink establishment for outdoor dining.
In addition to the sweeping set of changes, the province announced that outdoor capacity limits for weddings, funerals, and religious services, rites or ceremonies, will be adjusted on Monday to allow for the number of people that can maintain two metres of physical distance.
This change does not apply to social gatherings associated with these services such as receptions.
Hamilton’s Public Health Unit is moving to “Grey-Lockdown” as of Monday while Timiskaming Health Unit will be shifted to “Red-Control.”
Toronto and Peel Region will remain in lockdown until further notice.
“Over the last week, we have continued to see some concerning trends in key health indicators in regions across the province,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.
“As we cautiously make targeted adjustments to public health measures to support the wellbeing of individuals and small business owners, it is critical that everyone remains vigilant and continues to strictly follow all public health measures and advice to keep each other safe.”
Premier Doug Ford defended the decision to loosen those rules even as another city, Hamilton, moves to lockdown next week.
“I’m very, very concerned,” he said. “A message to the people of Ontario. Do not let your guard down … We’re loosening it up, just a little bit.”
Mississauga mayor Bonnie Crombie commended the decision, saying the modified restrictions will have a “positive impact on the mental, physical, and financial health of many people in Mississauga.”
“This is something I have been strongly advocating for and I thank the Province for listening and making these important changes,” said Crombie in a statement.
On March 19, the province announced that restaurants operating in “Red-Control” and “Orange-Restrict” would be able to open with 50 percent capacity and a maximum of 50 and 100 people indoors.
Outdoor patio dining at restaurants and bars in Grey Zone is only be permitted with members of the same household.
Those changes went into effect Saturday.
Toronto’s top doctor, Eileen de Villa, said that while the focus so far has been on outdoor dining and fitness, health officials are open to considering other activities that could take place outside, such as haircuts.
The latest adjustments by Ontario’s government comes as federal health officials warn of a strong resurgence of COVID-19 and call for more stringent measures to stop the spread.
Over the last two weeks, Canada’s daily COVID-19 case count has risen 30 percent to more than 4,000 cases each day, with hospitalizations increasing as well.
At the moment younger adults aged 20 to 39 now make up the age group with the highest level of spread.
“Adjusting the emergency brake to recommend the immediate implementation of shutdown measures in regions experiencing a rapid increase in transmission is important given the changes to the public health measures in the Grey Lockdown level,” said Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health.
“This will provide an extra layer of protection as we continue to fight this virus.”
According to the latest data from Ontario’s Science Advisory Board, the estimated number of COVID-19 cases per day, based on variants of concern (VOC), is 1,164. The estimated rate per 100,000 of VOC is 55.9.
As of Friday, Ontario reported 1,023 cases that have screened positive for VOC.
The President of Ontario’s Hospital Association (OHA) issued a statement Friday, saying, “As Ontario’s 3rd wave of COVID-19 worsens, the province’s critical care appears to be reaching saturation. If ICU admissions rise as expected, hospitals will face extreme pressure to ensure equitable access to life-saving critical care.”
There are 1,871 patients receiving ICU services in the province and 401 with COVID-related critical illness, OHA says.
“The latest data continues to show some worrying trends throughout the province, and variants of concern remain a significant threat to public health,” added Dr. Williams.
“That is why it is important that people remain cautious and vigilant in order to minimize the transmission of COVID-19 and protect themselves and their communities.”
Ontario reported 2,169 new cases of COVID-19 Friday and 12 more deaths linked to the virus.