Simcoe-Muskoka and Thunder Bay District are now in grey-lockdown under the provincial COVID-19 response framework.
The shift from red to the more restrictive grey means barbershops, salons, gyms and yoga studios must be closed. Most stores will be limited to 25 per cent capacity, while supermarkets, convenience stores, and pharmacies will be allowed to operate at 50 per cent capacity. Schools can stay open. Ski resorts will continue to operate.
The Ontario government announced late Friday it was hitting the so-called emergency brake on Simcoe-Muskoka including Barrie and Orillia.
“While we continue to see the number of cases and other public health indicators lowering in many regions across the province, the recent modelling shows us that we must be nimble and put in place additional measures to protect Ontarians and stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “With COVID-19 variants continuing to spread in our communities, it is critically important that everyone continues strictly adhering to all public health and workplace safety measures to help contain the virus and maintain the progress we have made to date.”
The province said there is a high presence of variants in Simcoe-Muskoka that continues to increase, and was the highest in the province as of last Tuesday. On Friday, the local health unit reported 184 total cases of the more contagious B.1.1.7 variant that was first detected in the U.K.
“Quickly implementing stronger measures to interrupt transmission of COVID-19 is a key component of the government’s plan to safely and gradually return public health regions to the Framework,” said Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health. “Due to data and local context and conditions in the Simcoe-Muskoka and Thunder Bay Districts, it was necessary to tighten public health measures in these regions to ensure the health and safety of the region at large and stop the spread of the virus.”
The shift to grey-lockdown was hinted at early last week at a Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit media briefing. Local medical officer of health Dr. Charles Gardner said there was a 30 per cent increase in COVID-19 cases in the region the week prior. At the same briefing, Gardner said he might ask the province to move the region back into lockdown.