Much like the province gradually reopened schools across Ontario, so too will it focus on certain areas over others when it comes to reopening the economy.
Premier Doug Ford announced Monday his government will begin lifting pandemic-related restrictions on businesses and organizations in three public health unit zones as of Wednesday. Simcoe-Muskoka is not among them. The stay-at-home order will remain in effect in this area and 27 other health unit zones until at least February 16. Toronto, Peel, and York Regions could see the stay-at-home order lifted as of February 22.
A decision to prolong stay-at-home orders in any public health unit zone could still be made, depending on fluctuations in COVID-19 numbers between now and then.
“We can’t return to normal, not yet. Not while our hospitals could still be overwhelmed, but we can transition out of the province-wide shutdown,” said Premier Ford on Monday afternoon. “We’re maintaining shutdown measures in the majority of the public health regions in Ontario for a short time. But we will look to gradually and safely transition all regions to a revised and stronger COVID-19 Response Framework.”
“We will be able to protect our people, our frontline heroes, our communities, and our businesses,” added the premier. “But it’s still up to each one of us. Because we’re not out of the woods yet. And I’m still concerned about these variants. We can’t let our guard down now.”
After the stay-at-home order is lifted February 16, Simcoe-Muskoka and the majority of the province will see an updated version of the colour-coded framework for recovery first introduced in the fall. Under the revised framework, limited in-person shopping will be permitted in those areas under the Grey-Lockdown zone.
“We are taking a cautious approach to returning to the framework. If a region experiences a rapid acceleration in COVID-19 transmission, or if the healthcare system becomes overwhelmed, a new emergency brake can be implemented,” said Health Minister Christine Elliott. “This is not a reopening or a return to normal. It’s an acknowledgment that we are making steady progress.”
As of 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, February 10, the following health unit zones will no longer be under the province’s stay-at-home order:
- Hastings Prince Edward Public Health
- Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health
- Renfrew County and District Health Unit
In addition, the provincial state of emergency will be allowed to expire by the end of the day Tuesday.