ontario lockdown

These are the parts of lockdown that might be lifted in Ontario next week

The stay-at-home order and state of emergency in Ontario are set to expire next week, but as has long been the case with pandemic restrictions in the province, residents are very confused about what exactly that may mean.

The state of emergency was implemented by Premier Doug Ford on Jan. 12, and was due to last only until Jan. 26, as states of emergencies expire if they are not extended every 14 days. The stay-at-home order, meanwhile, which was announced the same day, went into effect two days later.

In line with Ford's initial comments that both the state and order would remain in place for at least 28 days, he extended them both on the 25th, moving the expiry date of the former to Feb. 9, and the latter to Feb. 11.

Then there is the full shutdown that all regions of the province were plunged into on Boxing Day, which put the colour-coded zone method on pause for a comprehensive shutdown fully separate from the aforementioned moves.

That was initially due to last only two weeks (until Jan. 9) for the north of the province and four weeks (until Jan. 23) for the south of the province, but the northern regions had their measures extended another two weeks, bringing them onto the same timeline as hotspot locales like Toronto and Peel.

But as we all well know, the lockdown has persisted well past that timeline, with citizens of the two aforementioned regions now in their 11th week of the most stringent of health and safety restrictions and business closures, having been in the grey zone since Nov. 23.

Also to consider are the emergency orders under the Reopening Ontario Act, which are in fact different from the actual State of Emergency and are due to remain in place until Feb. 19 having been extended past their initial expiry date of Jan. 20.

It's easy to see with all of these factors and moving parts why the situation is so baffling.

Not helping things is the fact that, unlike at earlier points in the health crisis, Ford has not given the public any indication as to what will happen with the blanket lockdown that seems to be continuing indefinitely, nor what will come when the 28 day-long state of emergency and stay-at-home order are up in the coming days.

What Ford's administration did confirm on Wednesday is that students across Southern Ontario will finally return to in-person learning this coming Monday, Feb. 8, save for those in Toronto, Peel, and York, who will get back into classrooms just over one week later on Feb. 16, following the Family Day holiday.

This news suggests, perhaps, that the province may be considering relaxing other restrictions next week, seeing as it holds the key expiry dates for the measures mentioned.

And, some businesses are now preparing to open to the public as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday as a result. (And no, not just the ones that are slated to open their doors in defiance of government orders).

But conflicting comments made at Queen's Park today have made things all the more confounding, with Ford apparently "hinting" at a forthcoming announcement about reopening on Monday, as his office simultaneously stated that "no announcement has been scheduled yet regarding the re-opening of the economy."

The premier confirmed to City News during an appearance at Pearson Airport later on Wednesday afternoon that he "wants to get the economy opening up" and plans to make a formal statement about the timing of loosening restrictions, as mentioned, on the 8th, with "hot spot" regions to be held back likely an additional week from the others.

Then, his team retracted the statement.

The question now, announcement or not, is if the state and order and other such measures will be extended, and how soon the government will begin steps to reopen.

Also, whether these steps will be in line with key targets identified by Ontario Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Williams, who initially said daily case counts would have to be "somewhere around or even below 1,000" before officials began reassessing the shutdown.

Just more than a week later, Williams stated that it was the number of COVID-19 patients in the ICU that was more important, and that we would need to get below 200 admissions among a population of 14.5 million people. He then changed that ideal number to 150 just a few days ago.

Williams has also reiterated the threat of the new variants of the virus and the fact that the admission rates for affected patients may end up being higher, and thus impacting any plans to ease out of lockdown, especially if they become the dominant strains.

At the time of publication on the evening of Feb. 3, there are 336 Ontario COVID-19 patients in the ICU, 254 of which are on a ventilator. 

As of the latest data, the province was down to 1,172 new cases on Feb. 2, and we've seen around or below 2,000 new infections per day since Jan. 24, following spikes above 3,000 and even 4,000 earlier that month.

Lead photo by

A Great Capture

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