After more than six weeks under the strictest form of pandemic lockdown we’ve experienced to date, Ontario is ready to begin reopening its economy once again.
It will happen slowly and it will happen gradually, according to the provincial government — and Toronto will be among the last of all public health regions to see restrictions loosened.
While much of what happens in the coming weeks depends on COVID-19 case numbers and ICU capacities, we know the following for certain:
- The existing stay-at-home order will remain in effect for Toronto, Peel and York region until at least Monday, February 22.
- The provincewide state of emergency declared on January 12 will expire as scheduled on February 9.
- Once it is safe to do so, each respective region will transition from current shutdown restrictions to a revised version of the province’s colour-coded COVID-19 response framework.
- If at any point numbers start to spike again, the province has introduced an “emergency brake” provision that would send impacted regions immediately into the Grey-Lockdown mode.
- Once we’ve transitioned out of shutdown and back into the colour-coded framework, Toronto residents will be able to shop in all retail stores again — not just big box stores — so long as capacities are kept at 25 per cent. This applies to all levels of the lockdown framework.
“My friends, the measures are working — staying home is saving lives and I want to thank Team Ontario, every single person, for doing your part, for following the public health measures,” said Premier Doug Ford when announcing his government’s reopening plan on Monday morning at Queen’s Park.
“Together we are bending the curve… but my friends, we’re not clear of this storm yet,” Ford continued, pointing to the immense pressures still being experienced in some hospital ICUs, as well as complications related to highly-contagious new variants of the virus and vaccine procurement delays.
“While we are seeing our numbers trend in the right direction, our situation remains precarious as the variants of concern remain a serious risk,” said Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Williams, during Monday’s press conference.
“This is not a re-opening or a ‘return to normal’ and we must continue to limit close contact to our immediate households and stay at home except for essential reasons.”
Three regions will, however, see stay-at-home orders lifted on February 10 at 12:01 a.m.: Hastings Prince Edward Public Health, Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health, and Renfrew County and District Health Unit will all enter the Green-Prevent level of Ontario’s COVID-19 framework this Wednesday.
As of right now, Ontario plans to lift stay-at-home orders for all 28 other public health regions (excluding Toronto, Peel and York) on Tuesday, February 16.
“For Toronto, Peel and York regions, it is proposed that the Stay-at-Home order will continue to apply until Monday, February 22, 2021,” reads a release issued by the government Monday afternoon.
“Final decisions will be subject to review of the trends in public health indicators at that time.”