covid-19 cases and vaccine news

Ontario to end state of emergency, gradually ease COVID-19 restrictions

Premier Doug Ford today announced an end to the provincial emergency (to expire, as scheduled, at the end of Tuesday, Feb. 9) as well as plans to gradually move Ontario’s 34 public health units back to the province’s colour-coded reopening framework.

Province-wide shutdown measures went into effect on Dec. 26, 2020, to stop the rapid spread of COVID-19 across Ontario, and the state-of-emergency/stay-at-home order was implemented on Jan. 12, 2021, to reduce mobility and address hospital capacity concerns.

But in a press briefing on Monday afternoon, Ford said that “we’re seeing some sunlight break through the clouds.”

“My friends, the measures are working. Staying home is saving lives,” Ford noted.

As of Wednesday, Feb. 10, at 12:01 a.m., the following public health units will no longer be subject to the stay-at-home order, and will move into the green category (meaning they will have the least stringent COVID-19 restrictions):

  • Hastings Prince Edward Public Health
  • Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health
  • Renfrew County and District Health Unit

The green zone will allow businesses in these areas (i.e., retail shops, hair salons, restaurants, bars, gyms cinemas, etc.) to reopen, and private indoor gatherings to resume.

 

 

The stay-at-home order will be lifted for the remaining public health regions on Tuesday, Feb. 16, with the exception of Toronto, Peel, and York regions, where the stay-at-home order will continue until (at least) Monday, Feb. 22. Final decisions will be subject to review, pending public health indicator trends. When the order is lifted, these areas will be placed in the appropriate colour-coded category in the reopening framework (i.e., green, yellow, orange, red, and grey (lockdown) stages — you can read more about the framework here).

“This is not a reopening or a return to normal; it’s an acknowledgement that we are making steady progress,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said at the press briefing.

Elliott added that, while the province has seen progress in the fight against COVID-19, the situation in Ontario hospitals remains precarious and the new variants pose a considerable threat.

“As we cautiously and gradually transition out of the province-wide shutdown, we have developed an emergency brake system giving us the flexibility to contain community spread quickly in a specific region, providing an extra layer of protection,” Elliott said.

 

 

In an effort to support the province’s economic recovery, the government has updated the framework to allow for a safer approach to retail. For example, limited in-person shopping in grey-lockdown zones (which have the most stringent measures) will be permitted with public health and safety measures, such as limiting capacity to 25 per cent in most retail settings. Face coverings and maintaining physical distance will also be required when indoors in a business, with limited exceptions.

Individuals must also wear face coverings when attending indoor and outdoor organized public events/gatherings (where permitted) if they are within a two-metre distance of other individuals who are not part of their household.

Still, Ontarians are being reminded to stay at home, avoid social gatherings, minimize travel between areas with different rules, and limit close contact to their own households. Employers in all industries were also reminded to make every effort to allow employees to work from home.

“By continuing to follow all public health and workplace safety measures, we can continue to reduce the number of new cases and the strain on our health system,” Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health, said at the briefing.

The news comes as Ontario reported 1,265 cases of COVID-19 on Monday, with more than 28,300 tests completed. The new cases include 421 cases in Toronto, 256 in Peel, and 130 in York Region.

As of 8 p.m. Sunday, 386,171 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered.

Click here for more COVID-19 Ontario updates.

Article exclusive to TRNTO