grey zone ontario

Here are the new rules for grey zone lockdown regions in Ontario

Ontario is set to begin a phased reopening process this week that, barring any major COVID-19 transmission surges, could see stay-at-home orders lifted in all parts of the province by late February.

This doesn't spell anything close to a "return to normal," however, as provincial officials made clear when announcing the plan on Monday afternoon.

You see, once any region is given the green light to exit the current provincewide shutdown, it will automatically exit stay-at-home mode and go back into Ontario's colour-coded COVID-19 response Framework system.

The Stage 1, Stage 2 and Stage 3 of Ontario's first reopening are dead; This time around, permissions will be granted to each region as it moves through the five colour zones, from grey-lockdown (harshest restrictions) to green-prevent (the broadest allowance of activities absent a widely-available vaccine.)

Toronto residents should remember being placed into the grey zone on November 23, more than a month before a provincewide shutdown was ordered amid spiking rates of COVID-19.

Not much changed for Canada's largest city in terms of rules when the shutdown came into effect on Boxing Day, or when a state of emergency was declared on January 12.

Retail stores, restaurants, gyms, bars and all other non-essential services had already been ordered to close under grey-lockdown zone restrictions. Indoor social gatherings had already been essentially banned.

The province has not yet speculated as to which colour zone Toronto, Peel and York will enter when exiting the current shutdown, but the plan is to transition these hot spot regions back into the framework on February 22.

If we go back into the grey zone, things will remain the same in many ways — but with some major differences, thanks to "new and modified measures" that apply to all levels of the framework.

Here, per the provincial government's COVID-19 Response Framework document, are the new rules that will apply to Ontario regions in grey-lockdown zones once stay-at-home orders are lifted.

Organized public events, social gatherings and wedding, funeral and religious services, rites and ceremonies
  • No indoor organized public events and social gatherings, except with members of the same household
    • Individuals who live alone, including seniors, may consider having exclusive, close contact with another household to help reduce the negative impacts of social isolation
  • Limit for outdoor organized public events and social gatherings, physical distancing can be maintained:
    • 10 people outdoors
  • Limits for religious services rites or ceremonies, including wedding services and funeral services, where physical distancing can be maintained (applies in any venue other than a private dwelling):
    • 10 people indoors
    • 10 people outdoors
  • Virtual and drive-in events and religious services, rites or ceremonies permitted
Restaurants, bars and food or drink establishments
  • Indoor and outdoor service prohibited
  • Take out, drive through and delivery permitted, including alcohol
Sports and recreational fitness facilities
  • Facilities for indoor or outdoor sports and recreational fitness activities are closed except for:
    • The sole use of high performance athletes including parasport athletes, and specified professional leagues (for example, NHL, CFL, MLS, NBA)
    • Specified purposes (for example, day camps, child care)
  • Outdoor recreational amenities (for example, ice rinks, ski hills, snow trails) open with restrictions (for example, no team sports)
  • Community centres and multi-purpose facilities (for example, YMCA) allowed to be open for permitted activities (for example, child care services, day camps, social services)
Meeting and event spaces
  • Closed with limited exceptions for:
    • child care and day camps for children
    • court services
    • government services
    • mental health and addiction support services (for example, Alcoholics Anonymous) permitted to a maximum of 10 people
    • provision of social services

New to Grey-Lockdown as of February 2021:

  • In person shopping permitted for all retail, subject to capacity limits of:
    • 50% for supermarkets and other stores that primarily sell groceries, convenience stores and pharmacies
    • 25% for all other retail, including discount and big box retailers, liquor stores, hardware stores and garden centres
  • Curbside pick-up and delivery permitted
  • Stores must post capacity limit publicly
  • Stores must have passive screening for patrons (for example, posting signs outside the store front about not entering if you have COVID-19 symptoms)
  • Individuals must physically distance and wear a face covering, with some exceptions
  • No loitering in shopping malls, and stores within the malls subject to appropriate retail measures
Personal care services
  • Closed
Casinos, bingo halls and gaming establishments
  • Closed
  • Closed, except for:
    • drive-in cinemas
    • rehearsal or performing a recorded or broadcasted event, with restrictions, which include:
      • Performers and employees must maintain 2 metres physical distance except for purposes of the performance
      • Singers and players of brass or wind instruments must be separated from any other performers by plexiglass or other impermeable barrier
  • safety plan is required to be prepared and made available upon request
Performing arts facilities
  • Closed to spectators
  • Rehearsal or performing a recorded or broadcasted event permitted, with restrictions, which include:
    • Performers and employees must maintain 2 metres physical distance except for purposes of the performance
    • Singers and players of brass or wind instruments must be separated from any other performers by plexiglass or other impermeable barrier
  • Drive-in performances permitted
  • safety plan is required to be prepared and made available upon request
Amusement parks, water parks
  • Closed
Animal services
  • Services that are permitted include:
    • Veterinary services and other businesses that provide for the health and welfare of animals, including farms, boarding kennels, stables, animal shelters and research facilities
    • Businesses that provide services for the training and provision of service animals
    • Businesses that provide pet services, including pet grooming services, pet sitting services, pet walking services and pet training services
Bathhouses and sex clubs
  • Closed
Boarding kennels and stables
  • Permitted to open for animal's owner, or their representative, to visit the animal, assist in the care or feeding of the animal or, as applicable, ride the animal
  • Available for trailers and recreational vehicles that are used by individuals who are in need of housing, or are permitted to be there by the terms of a full season contract
  • Only campsites with electricity, water service and facilities for sewage disposal may be provided for use
  • All recreational facilities in the campground and all other shared facilities in the campground, other than washrooms and showers, must be closed
  • Short-term campground rentals that were reserved on or before November 22, 2020 are permitted; no new reservations after November 22, 2020 permitted, except for individuals who are in need of housing
  • Permitted by curb-side pick-up and delivery
Driving instruction
  • In-person driving instruction not permitted
  • Virtual permitted
Household services
  • Domestic and cleaning and maintenance services permitted, including:
    • housekeepers, cooks, maids and butlers
    • personal affairs management
    • nanny services and babysitters
    • other domestic personnel
    • house cleaning
  • Outdoor cleaning and maintenance services permitted, including:
    • indoor or outdoor painting
    • pool cleaning
    • general repairs
Horse racing
  • Training only, no races
  • No spectators
Hotels, motels
  • Permitted to operate except for any pools, fitness centres, meeting rooms and other recreational facilities that may be part of the operations of these businesses


  • Open for curbside, delivery and pick-up
  • Patrons permitted to enter libraries for contactless drop-off and pick-up, and to access computers, photocopiers, or similar services
  • May open for permitted services (for example, day camp, child care services, mental health and addiction support services to a limit of 10 persons [AA meetings], provision of social services)
  • No classes
Marinas, boating clubs, golf courses and driving ranges
  • Marinas and boating clubs permitted
  • Clubhouses, restaurants, pools, meeting rooms, fitness centres or other recreational facilities on the premises closed to the public, with limited exceptions
  • Golf courses and driving ranges:
    • Outdoors permitted
    • Indoors closed
  • Indoor shooting ranges closed
Media industries
  • Sound recording, production, publishing and distribution businesses
  • Film and television production, including all supporting activities such as hair, makeup and wardrobe, are permitted to open if they meet the following conditions:
    • No studio audiences may be permitted to be on the film or television set
    • The set must be configured and operated in such a way as to enable persons on the set to maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from other persons, except where necessary for the filming of the film or television production
    • Persons who provide hair or makeup services must wear appropriate personal protective equipment
    • Singers and players of brass or wind instruments must be separated from any other performers by plexiglass or some other impermeable barrier
  • Film and television post-production, visual effects and animation studios are permitted
  • Book and periodical production, publishing and distribution businesses are permitted
  • Interactive digital media businesses, including computer system software or application developers and publishers, and video game developers and publishers are permitted
  • Closed
Museums and other cultural amenities (for example, art galleries, science centres)
  • Closed (indoors) to members of the public
  • Drive-in or drive through only
  • Only permitted to open if they operate as a restaurant, bar, or other food and drink establishment (take-out, drive-through and delivery service only)
Personal services
  • In-person personal services not permitted, including:
    • personal shoppers
    • party and wedding planners
    • personal organizer services
    • personal physical fitness or sports trainers
    • house sitters
Photography studios and services
  • Commercial and industrial photography permitted
  • Retail photo studios closed
Real estate agencies (including pre-sale construction)
  • Permitted to operate; property showings by appointment only
Short-term rentals
  • Existing reservations as of November 22, 2020 honoured regardless of when the rental occurs
  • No new reservations after November 22, 2020 permitted, except for individuals who are in need of housing
  • This does not apply to hotels, motels, lodges, resorts and other shared rental accommodation, including student residences
Strip clubs
  • Only permitted to open if they operate as a restaurant, bar, or other food and drink establishment (take-out and delivery service only)
Tour and guide services
  • Closed
Zoos and aquariums
  • Closed (indoors) to members of the public except for drive-in or drive through events
  • Permitted to operate for the care of animals

Three public health units are scheduled to exit the current shutdown mode on Wednesday, according to the provincial government.

 Hastings Prince Edward Public Health, Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington Public Health, and Renfrew County and District Health Unit will move from the provincewide shutdown into the framework's "Green-Prevent" level.

All remaining public regions save for Toronto, Peel and York will enter the framework on February 16. Toronto, Peel and York are the last three regions slated to exit shutdown mode on February 22.

"As local trends of key public health indicators improve, regions will be gradually transitioned back into this framework, with some new and modified measures in place," noted the province in a release announcing the measures on Monday.

"We anticipate public health unit regions will return to the framework and no longer be subject to the shutdown and stay-at-home orders on [these dates]... These dates may change depending on the trends in local public health indicators."

Lead photo by

Dominic Bugatto

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