The province has hit the emergency brake.
The Ontario government in a statement Friday afternoon said that in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit and the Thunder Bay District Health Unit will move into the grey-lockdown effective 12:01 a.m. on Monday, Mar. 1, as part of the provincial COVID-19 response framework.
The statement said decisions were made in consultation with local medical officers of health.
“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.”
Under the grey code, 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.
Restaurants will only be allowed to provide takeout. Ski resorts and schools will remain open.
Hair salons, barbershops, gyms, and yoga studios must be closed.
“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 province said there is a high presence of variants in Simcoe Muskoka that continues to increase and is the highest in the province. On Friday, the health unit reported 184 cases of a variant first detected in the U.K.
Moving Simcoe Muskoka including Barrie and Orillia into grey-lockdown should not come as a shock to anyone who paid attention to what the local medical officer of health said on Tuesday.
Dr. Charles Gardner told a media briefing at that time he might ask the province to move the region into lockdown. He said there was a 30 per cent increase in COVID-19 cases in Simcoe Muskoka last week compared to the week before.
“Our trajectory is not headed in the right direction,” Gardner said at the briefing. “We need to be prepared to go into a shutdown again in the near future.”
The near future is almost here.
The shift to grey is not a stay-at-home order.