ontario zonezs

Here are the differences between red zones and grey zones in Ontario

Toronto has shifted through no less than eight different forms of lockdown over the past six months, from the relatively permissive Stage 3 to the slapped-together "modified Stage 2" to the red zone, the grey zone, a full on shutdownemergency mode, and then back into grey again with various mid-game rule changes throughout.

Needless to say, COVID-19 colour zone confusion is rampant in Ontario.

With Toronto entering a newly-modified form of the same colour zone under the provincial government's reopening framework this past weekend, people are starting to lose track of what these colour levels even mean.

Toronto, which many had thought would be moving into the red zone this week, is still in grey — but the grey zone has been modified (again) to allow for outdoor dining at restaurants.

So what's red, then? 

Well, as of the latest changes announced Friday, red zones are now even more permissive in terms of bars and restaurants, with indoor dining capped at 50 people or 50 per cent capacity of any given establishment. Orange zones have indoor dining caps ot 50 per cent or 100 people per bar or restaurant.

In grey zones (which currently include Toronto, Peel, Thunder Bay, Sudbury and Lambton) people can only eat outdoors, and only with members of their own households. 

Here are all of the other differences between Grey-Lockdown and Red-Restrict, per Ontario's current COVID-19 reopening regulations:

Gatherings and close contact

Residents of both zones must limit close contact to members of their own your households and stay at least 2 metres apart from everyone else.

In red zones, events and social gatherings can have up to 5 people indoors and 25 people outside.

In grey zones, events and social gatherings are capped at 10 outside and zero inside (read: indoor gatherings are still illegal in grey zone regions.) 

Religious, wedding and funeral services

For red zones: 30 per cent capacity indoors, 100 people outside. For grey zones: 15 per cent capacity indoors, 50 people outside.

Restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments

For red zones, capacity limits are "the lesser of approximately 50 per cent of indoor dining area or 50 people" inside. Outdoors dining is "limited to allow physical distancing of two metres to be maintained."

In grey zones, indoor dining is closed but outdoor dining, take-out, drive-through and delivery services are permitted.  

Buffets, dancing, singing, live music performance and strip clubs (which can only operate as a restaurant or bar) are prohibited in both zones and all establishments in red and grey must close by 10 p.m. with a 9 p.m. last call.

Guests in both zones must:

  • Only be seated with members of their same households, with limited exceptions for caregivers and people who live alone
  • Sit with at least 2 metres between tables
  • Remain seated at all times (with some exceptions)
  • Wear masks or face coverings except when eating or drinking (with some exceptions)
  • Wear a mask or face covering and keep 2 metres apart when lining up and gathering outside or inside
  • Give their name and contact information
  • Answer screening questions about COVID-19covid 19 symptoms and exposure
Sports and recreational fitness facilities

Indoor facilities are closed in grey zones with limited exceptions (such as childcare.) 

In red zone regions, gyms can reopen with a maximum of 10 people for indoor classes and 10 people in areas with weights and exercise equipment. Up to 25 people can participate in outdoor classes.

A 90-minute time limit is in place for classes and working out in red zone regions, though "some exemptions apply for high-performance athletes and parasports."

Outdoor ski, ice and snow recreational amenities are open for recreational purposes at both levels.

Meeting and event spaces

Closed in grey zones, open in red zones with the same time restrictions as restaurants (10 p.m. close, 9 p.m. last call) and with capacity limits of:


In-person shopping is available in both regions, with different capacity limits.

In red zones, supermarkets, convenience stores, pharmacies and "other stores that primarily sell groceries" can operate at 75 per cent capacity. All other retail (including discount and big box retailers, liquor stores, cannabis stores, hardware stores, garden centres) have capacity limits of 50 per cent.

In grey zones, supermarkets, convenience stores, pharmacies and "other stores that primarily sell groceries" can operate at 50 per cent capacity. All other retailers can run at up to 25 per cent of regular capacity.

Curbside pick-up and delivery are permitted for both colour zones, and shoppers in either must wear a mask or face covering, maintain physical distance and answer screening questions about COVID-19 before they enter malls.

Personal care services

Closed completely in Grey-Lockdown regions, but open in Red-Restrict zones except for the following:

  • Oxygen bars
  • Steam rooms
  • Saunas
  • Sensory deprivation pods (except for therapeutic purposes)
  • Bath houses
  • Other adult venues
  • Services that need guests to remove their mask or face covering

The bottom line here is that hair salons and barbers can reopen once their respective regions enter the red zone.

Casinos, bingo halls and gaming establishments

Closed in grey, open in red with capacity limits of 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors. Table games are banned, restaurant time restrictions are in place and both masks and contact tracing are mandatory.


Movie theatres are listed as "closed (with some exceptions)" in red zones and "Only drive-ins allowed" in both.

Lead photo by

Jeremy Gilbert

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