ontario extends lockdown

Ontario officially extends lockdown in Toronto for two more weeks

As requested by city officials, Toronto and Peel will remain under the strictest form of lockdown Ontario has seen to date until at least March 8, with stay-at-home orders and strict provincewide shutdown rules both in effect.

This gives the hot spot regions, as well as North Bay-Parry Sound, two additional weeks to try and contain several highly-contagious new viral variants of COVID-19, lessening the impact of an expected third wave.

York Region, however, will get to leave shutdown mode and re-enter the red zone of Ontario's revised COVID-19 response framework on Monday, February 22.

Stay-at-home orders were originally set to be lifted the same day in Toronto, Peel and North Bay-Parry Sound, but have been extended at the behest of worried public health officers.

"Our government's number one priority is the safety of all individuals and families, and that's why we are taking a gradual, cautious approach to returning regions to the Framework," said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, when announcing the extension on Friday.

"These are difficult but necessary decisions, in order to protect against COVID-19 variants and maintain the progress we have all made together. Until vaccines are widely available, we continue to urge all Ontarians to follow public health advice and measures, and stay home, stay safe, and save lives."

The province revealed today that the Peel and Toronto regions have seen a reduction in COVID-19 transmission over the past two weeks, but cautions that numbers still remain too high in both regions.

Toronto is currently seeing 67.9 cases of the coronavirus per 100,000 people, while Peel's case rate is at 83.4 per 100,000. 

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams says he will continue to consult with local public health experts and review data to evaluate the effectiveness of current lockdown measures and tighten or lift restrictions every two weeks as necessary.

If all goes well for Toronto, it will transition out of shutdown mode on March 9, though it is not known which zone the city will be put into at the time.

Should Toronto enter the framework at the grey-lockdown level, as Toronto Mayor John Tory predicts, little will change in the city when stay-at-home orders are actually lifted.

Restaurants, bars, gyms, hair salons, non-essential retail stores and more will remain closed or under business-killing restrictions in the grey zone (with some exciting new exceptions) as they have since November 23 in Toronto.

"I know extending the lockdown will cause continuing hurt for many businesses. But I also know we have followed the public health advice throughout this pandemic so that we can keep as many people healthy as possible and save as many lives as we possibly can," said Tory on Wednesday after requesting the lockdown extension.

"Despite the huge dislocation the pandemic has caused for people and businesses, the worst mistake we could make right now is to ignore the advice of our medical experts and to begin to re-open too quickly."

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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