toronto lockdown

Toronto to remain in grey-lockdown zone for 2 more weeks but patios can open

Sorry, folks; Toronto will not be entering the red zone of Ontario's COVID-19 response framework on Monday as many had hoped — but there is some good news by way of modifications to dining rules in the grey zone.

Based on the advice of local officials such as Toronto Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa, the province announced on Friday that it would be keeping both Toronto and Peel at the most-restrictive level of its reopening framework for at least two more weeks.

Hair salons, gyms, cinemas and pretty much everything else prohibited under grey zone rules will remain closed, but the Ford government has agreed to allow outdoor dining to resume in Canada's largest city.

It may not be what people had been hoping for last week, when Mayor John Tory was hintng that Toronto would move into the red zone as soon as possible, but it's better than nothing — and way less restrictive than the full three-week lockdown being recommended by some health experts.

As of 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, March 20, restaurants in grey-lockdown zones (read: Toronto and Peel) will be permitted to open for outdoor dining across Ontario. In other words, patio season will begin in less than 12 hours.

On top of that, the province is allowing restaurants in red-control regions to open at 50 per cent capacity (maximum 50 people) indoors. Orange-restrict zones are capped at a maximum of 100 people indoors.

Key to note among these changes is that people can only dine on patios with members of their own household in grey. Red and orange zone businesses will similarly have to limit indoor dining to "members of the same household with exemptions for patrons who live alone and caregivers."

The idea of changing grey zone rules locally to allow for some outdoor activities, such as patio dining, had been proposed by Tory on Wednesday. Ford himself expressed support for the idea on Thursday.

What had not been publicly discussed was the idea of allowing up to 50 people inside red-control zone restaurants. It's not clear if this rule change will apply in Toronto when it finally gets the green light to move beyond grey into red.

Dr. de Villa and other health officials have expressed concern over the idea of reopening too quickly in hot spot regions such as ours, given the recent spread of new viral variants and the apparent emergence of a third wave.

"We've been in conversation with the province, and specifically with the chief medical officer of health, about where next to take Toronto within the provincial COVID-19 framework," said de Villa during a press conference on Wednesday.

"At this time, it is my view that data do not support the kind of reopening that would be provided for under the red zone designation."

The medical officer did, however, acknowledge the negative mental health and economic impacts that extended lockdown measures are taking, expressing her support for "a modest expansion of the options available to people in Toronto — particularly outdoor-focused activity."

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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