All retail stores can soon reopen in Ontario with new capacity limits
Premier Doug Ford provided an update on the public health restrictions currently in place across Ontario Monday morning, and his announcement included good news for the owners and operators of retail stores.
Speaking to reporters at Queen's Park, Ford explained that his government has updated its COVID-19 framework "to allow for a safer approach to retail" and that all regions in the strictest, Grey-Lockdown zones will be allowed to offer in-person shopping at retail stores with a capacity limit of 25 per cent.
While regions across Ontario are currently under a province-wide shutdown that requires all non-essential retail to remain closed, Ford said the province will soon begin gradually transitioning each region away from the shutdown measures and back to a revised and strengthened version of the COVID-19 Response Framework: Keeping Ontario Safe and Open.
"Our number one priority will always be protecting the health and safety of all individuals, families and workers across the province," said Ford in a statement.
"But we must also consider the severe impact COVID-19 is having on our businesses. That's why we have been listening to business owners, and we are strengthening and adjusting the Framework to allow more businesses to safely reopen and get people back to work."
Under the updated framework, regions in the grey zone will be allowed to open in-person shopping at all retail outlets, which was not previously permitted in this stage.
"All stores that engage in retail sales to the public, including, big box stores" will be subject to capacity limits of 25 per cent, while grocery stores, pharmacies and convenience stores will have capacity limits of 50 per cent.
All the previous rules, including mandatory masking and physical distancing, will also still apply, and stores will be required to publicly post their capacity limits.
Regions in the red zone will also be allowed to offer in-person shopping, and grocery stores, pharmacies and convenience stores will have capacity limits of 75 per cent while all other retail outlets will have to cap capacity at 50 per cent.
Retail store owners can find the full list of new restrictions for in-store shopping online.
Three regions with promising COVID-19 indicators — Hastings Prince Edward Public Health; Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health; and Renfrew County and District Health Unit — will be the first to transition back to the framework and enter the Green-Prevent level on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021 at 12:01 a.m.
These regions will no longer be subject to the stay-at-home order and will instead have to follow the rules outlined in the updated framework.
The province is predicting that 28 other public health regions will come out of the stay-at-home order and enter the framework on Feb. 16, while Toronto, Peel and York regions may enter the framework on Feb. 22.
This is, however, dependent on a review of the trends in public health indicators at that time.
"While we are seeing our numbers trend in the right direction, our situation remains precarious as the variants of concern remain a serious risk," said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams in a statement.
"This is not a re-opening or a 'return to normal' and we must continue to limit close contact to our immediate households and stay at home except for essential reasons. 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."
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