ontario lockdown

All of Ontario is now staying in lockdown until at least Jan. 23

When the new blanket lockdown for Ontario was initially announced last month, the plan was for regions in the north of the province to be released from stringent restrictions two weeks earlier than those in the south, which contains COVID-19 hotspots like Toronto, Peel, and York.

But health officials revealed on Thursday — less than 48 hours before some regions were expecting to see health measures eased — that the entire province would be kept under the full shutdown for at 28 days total from Dec. 26, the day it was implemented.

"As you recall, when we announced the lockdown we were going to consider reviewing Northern Ontario and have them come out of lockdown after two weeks, which would be this weekend," Ontario Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Williams said at a pandemic briefing today.

He added that when the province went into this severe iteration of lockdown, many more northerly regions, which tend to be more rural, were under the most lax restrictions in the green zone of the now on-hold colour-coded reopening framework based on their COVID-19 stats.

But, this has changed as case numbers provincewide have risen to more than 3,000 per day in recent days.

"Now there's only one left in green... So their numbers have gone up," Williams said. "We had a consultation with the seven northern medical officers of health, and all were adamant that they need to stay in lockdown. And they said their municipal leadership was feeling the same way."

This means that the earliest any place in Ontario can hope to reopen retailers, any sort of bar and restaurant dining, gyms, ski hillsmovie theatres, and other things shuttered under the current rules, which are comparable to but different from the previous grey zone, will be at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 23.

Infection numbers, hospital capacities and other data will be used to determine if businesses located in certain health units can open at that time.

In the same press conference, it was announced that students in southern Ontario will not be returning to schools from their winter break until Jan. 25, while those in the north of the province will be back in classrooms starting this coming Monday.

Many residents found the news a little confounding given that the vast majority of businesses will have to continue limiting or ceasing operations altogether, and that people will still be unable to visit with other households while kids can attend classes in-person.

The public health units that comprise Northern Ontario are Algoma, Northwestern, Porcupine, Sudbury and District, Thunder Bay and Timiskaming, while the remaining 28 are considered Southern Ontario.

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