Ontario’s COVID-19 state of emergency will expire on Tuesday making way for the gradual reopening of the economy, but Greater Toronto Area hotspots will be the last to see restrictions lifted, Premier Doug Ford announced on Monday.
With the state of emergency ending, the province will transition back to the colour-coded system that eases restrictions based on COVID-19 cases counts in respective regions.
That system has now been modified to allow some degree of in-person shopping at non-essential stores at all levels, including the grey-lockdown level.
Stay-at-home orders will remain in effect for all but three regions until Tuesday, February 16 while hotspots Toronto, Peel and York regions will be the last to transition on Monday, February 22.
The first three regions to enter the green-prevent level on Wednesday are Hastings Prince Edward, Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington, and Renfew County and District.
“Our number one priority will always be protecting the health and safety of all individuals, families and workers across the province,” said Ford.
“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.”
Here’s what the modified colour-coded system means for shoppers: (Curbside pick-up and delivery permitted at all levels)
• In person shopping permitted for retail sales, with capacity limits;
• In addition of the previous restriction of 50 per cent capacity limit for supermarkets and other stores that primarily sell groceries, convenience stores, and pharmacies: 25 per cent capacity limit for all other stores that engage in retail sales to the public, including, big box stores;
• In person shopping permitted for retail services, with capacity limits; 75 per cent capacity limit for supermarkets and other stores that primarily sell groceries, convenience stores, and pharmacies; and 50 per cent capacity limit for all other retail businesses that engage in retail sales to the public, including big box stores.
Green-Prevent, Yellow-Protect, and Orange-Restrict Levels, and Other Sectors
• Require businesses and organizations to screen in compliance with any advice, recommendations and instructions issued by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health or other public health official by, among other things:
• Posting signs at all entrances to the premises, in a location visible to the public, that informs individuals on how to screen themselves for COVID-19 prior to entering the premises;
• Actively screening every person who works at the business or organization before they enter the premises; and actively screening patrons entering indoor malls in the Orange-Restrict zone.
The province has also introduced an “emergency brake” that gives Chief Medical Officer, Dr. David Williams, the power to immediately move a region back into lockdown if cases spike.
The province-wide shutdown went into effect on December 26 and the government issued its second provincial emergency at stay-at-home orders on January 12.