red zone ontario

Ontario tightens public health restrictions provincewide as COVID-19 cases soar

Toronto and Peel Region will no longer be alone in the dreaded red zone of Ontario's recently-released colour-coded reopening framework, Doug Ford announced at his daily press briefing on Friday as he expressed grave concern about rising COVID-19 numbers and frightening modelling projections that provincial experts released just yesterday.

As of 12:01 a.m. on Nov, 16, York, Hamilton and Halton will move from the Orange-Restrict category into the Red-Control category based on all-new epidimiological thresholds the government has brought into its reopening plan today.

Peel will likewise transition to Red that day, while Toronto will at 12:01 a.m. tomorrow, Nov. 14.

This will mean more stringent measures such as a 10-person cap in indoor dining rooms — down from the 50 permitted under Orange-Restrict — as well as a moratorium on things like dancing and singing indoors in these regions. Gyms will also now have an indoor capacity of 10 and an outdoor capacity of 25, while team sports practices are no longer allowed.

A number of regions that were previously in the looser Yellow-Protect and Green-Prevent zones have also been put under further lockdown, having to adopt Orange-Restrict rules as of the same time on Monday: Brant County, Durham, Niagara, Waterloo and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph.

Meanwhile, Haldimand-Norfolk, Huron-Perth, Middlesex-London, Sudbury, Simcoe-Muskoka, Southwestern, and Windsor-Essex will be relegated to Yellow, from Green, under which a new 11 p.m. last call and six person limit per table will be implemented in bars and restaurants, as well as other measures.

Regions not named above will stay in the zone they were prescribed when the framework was introduced last week.

In Orange, bars and restaurants are subject to a 9 p.m. last call and 10 p.m. closing time, as well as a 50 person cap indoors and a limit of four people per table, as in Red. Fitness facilities likewise have a cap of 50, and members can only exercise for up to 90 minutes per session.

COVID-19 screening must be conducted on all patrons before they enter the premises of any establishment in an Orange or Red zone.

The move follows some criticism that the benchmarks for progressing a region from a lesser form of lockdown into a stricter one were too high given how rampantly the virus has been spreading in recent weeks.

As Deputy Premier Christine Elliott said in the presser today, cases in Ontario have gone up 45 per cent week-over-week, and positivity rates have likewise risen from 3.2 per cent to 4.4 per cent, on average, in the last week.

"We see the numbers rapidly increasing... If we don't change course in a big way, Ontario is on track for 6,500 new cases per day," Ford said.

He added that Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Williams has updated his advice to people who reside in Red zones — advice that mirrors recommendations just made by Toronto officials for their city this week.

"Limit your trips outside of the home except for essential reasons. Work remotely where possible. Families should not visit any other households or allow visitors to their homes. And please avoid social gatherings," Ford relayed.

On top of the health and safety measures imposed under each level of the coloured framework, municipal health experts have the power to add extra restrictions they see fit for their respective regions, as Dr. Eileen de Villa did when she extended the complete shutdown of indoor dining and fitness classes in Toronto for at least another 28 days earlier this week.

Lead photo by

Dominic Bugatto

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