toronto lockdown

Stay-at-home order will officially be lifted in Toronto next week

Toronto, Peel and North Bay residents who have been living with a stay-at-home order and full lockdown for the longest of anyone in the province have been desperately waiting for some news on when their stint under the most prohibitive measures might be lifted — and it seems that news has finally come.

Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams confirmed on Thursday that the three regions, which still remain under the blanket shutdown that went into effect provincewide on Dec. 26 and the stay-at-home order that followed on Jan. 14, will be re-entering the colour-coded reopening framework in a matter of days.

"We knew from before that three of the health units that have been out of the framework up until now in the stay at home order — namely Toronto, Peel and North Bay — will be re-entering the framework as of midnight on Sunday coming up," Williams said in a press conference on Thursday.

"The question is where do they re-enter the framework into."

If moved into the grey zone, the urban centres of Toronto and Peel will revert into the same stringent lockdown they'll remember being in from Nov. 23 until the blanket shutdown on Boxing Day, with a new amendment that allows non-essential retail stores to operate with 25 per cent capacity.

Still, bars and restaurants, gyms, gaming establishments, meeting and event spaces, salons and businesses offering personal care services, and others will have to stay shuttered — which they have been for more than 100 days, one of the longest forced closures in the world.

If the regions are permitted to enter into the red zone, however, these establishments will finally be allowed to resume in-person operations, albeit with extremely limited capacities and health measures in place.

The medical officers of health in both regions have requested that they go into grey for fear of the spread of new variants of the virus, with the notoriously cautious top doctor for Toronto adding that she's "never been more worried about the future" last month.

Businesses, meanwhile, have been begging for restrictions to be eased somewhat so they can try to recoup for months of devastating losses, which had caused more than 25,000 small businesses in the province to permanently close as of last September.

COVID stats such as the regions' infection numbers per 100,000 residents, which Williams said were trending downwards until flattening or rising slightly recently, will be taken into account in the final decision, which will be announced by Premier Doug Ford later today to go into effect at 12:01 a.m. on March 8.

Toronto is, on average, now at 3,050.8 cases per 100,000 residents, while Peel sits at 3,838.6 and North Bay Parry Sound, 204.2. This is compared to 2,985.7, 3,749.2 and 199.6, respectively, a week ago.

Lead photo by

Fareen Karim

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