Restaurants, retail reopen in York Region as Toronto, Peel remain under stay-at-home order

By Michael Ranger, News Staff

One of the GTA’s COVID-19 hot spots is returning to the province’s colour-coded system of pandemic restrictions on Monday, while a stay-at-home order remains in effect for Toronto and Peel Region.

Businesses in York Region are allowed to reopen as the public health unit moves to the second-most restrictive level of the province’s pandemic framework.

Non-essential retailers and restaurants will be able to welcome customers back, with capacity limits and physical distancing in place.

The Ford government announced Friday that York would be placed under ‘Red-Control’, joining Durham, Halton, Hamilton, and other regions in the process. The government decided to hold Toronto and Peel back after health officials in both regions expressed concern that the reopening was moving too quickly.

York has long logged some of Ontario’s highest COVID-19 case counts, but the region’s chief medical officer of health requested that the province move it back to the tiered framework to bring it in line with most of Ontario’s other public health units.

Markham mayor Frank Scarpitti said Monday that he’s happy things are reopening but would like to see it happen more gradually with heavier restrictions. Scarpitti thinks the region should continue to ban all indoor social gatherings, limit the capacity of grocery stores to 50 per cent and big box retailers, shopping malls to 25 per cent.

“These are measures that I think we need to take for now,” says Scarpitti. “Until we are able to monitor, for a couple of more weeks, the impact of the COVID-19 variants.”

After two weeks, the government will assess the impact of public health and workplace safety measures to determine if the region should stay where it is or be moved to a different level.

“While the health indicators have improved enough to allow us to return an additional region to the Framework, we are not yet at the point where we can safely transition back the remainder of the province,” said Dr. David Williams.

‘Red-Control’ measures and details


  • Capacity limits of:
    • 75% for supermarkets and other stores that primarily sell groceries, convenience stores, pharmacies
    • 50% for all other retail, including discount and big-box retailers, liquor stores, hardware stores, and garden centres
  • Stores must post capacity limit publicly
  • Stores must have passive screening for patrons (for example, posting signs outside the store front about not entering if you have covid 19 symptoms)
    • This does not apply to indoor malls, which are required to actively screen their customers before they enter the mall. Malls can use the patron screening tool to help meet this requirement.
  • Stores within the malls subject to appropriate retail measures


Restaurants, Bars, and other food establishments: 

  • Capacity limits, where physical distancing can be maintained:
    • 10 patrons seated indoors
  • Outdoor dining, take out, drive through, and delivery permitted, including alcohol
  • No buffet style service
  • Line-ups and patrons congregating outside venues managed by venue; 2 metres distance and face-covering required
  • Screening of patrons is required, in accordance with instructions issued by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health
  • Require patrons to be seated; 2 metres minimum or impermeable barrier required between tables
  • Limit of 4 people may be seated together
  • Require contact information for all seated patrons
  • Face coverings required except when eating or drinking only
  • Personal protective equipment, including eye protection, required when is a worker must come within 2 metres of another person who is not wearing a face covering
  • Establishments must be closed from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
  • Liquor sold or served only between 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • No consumption of liquor permitted between 10 p.m. to 9 a.m.
  • Dancing, singing and the live performance of music is prohibited
  • Limit volume of music to be low enough that a normal conversation is possible
  • Night clubs and strip clubs only permitted to operate as restaurant or bar
  • A safety plan is required to be prepared and made available upon request


Public Events and Social Gatherings: 

  • Limits for all organized public events and social gatherings:
    • 5 people indoors
    • 25 people outdoors
  • Limits for religious services rites or ceremonies, including wedding services and funeral services, where physical distancing can be maintained (applies in any venue other than a private dwelling):
    • 30% capacity of the room indoors
    • 100 people outdoors


Sports and Fitness Facilities: 

  • Maintain 2 metres physical distancing at all times
  • Increase spacing between patrons to 3 metres in areas where there are weights or exercise equipment and in exercise and fitness classes
  • Capacity limits, where physical distancing can be maintained
    • 10 people in indoor areas with weights and exercise machines
    • 10 people in all indoor classes or
    • 25 people in outdoor classes
    • No spectators permitted, however, each person under 18 may be accompanied by one parent or guardian
  • Team sports must not be practiced or played except for training (no games or scrimmage)
  • Activities that are likely to result in individuals coming within 2 metres of each other are not permitted; no contact permitted for a team or individual sports
  • Exemptions for high-performance athletes and parasport
  • Patrons may only be in the facility for 90 minutes except if engaging in a sport
  • Limit volume of music to be low enough that a normal conversation is possible; measures to prevent shouting by both instructors and members of the public
  • Face coverings required except when exercising
  • Require contact information for all members of the public that enter the facility
  • Require reservation for entry; one reservation for teams
  • Screening of patrons is required, in accordance with instructions issued by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health
  • A safety plan is required to be prepared and made available upon request


When Toronto and Peel were shut down in December, and York was still open, the province saw a rise in cases as Ontarians hopped from region to region.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott says they don’t want people travelling between regions at this point.

“This isn’t a reopening, everything is back to normal. Not at all,” she said. “Please stay in your own region, please follow the public health measures and sooner or later everyone will get to that place.”

Vaughan mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua stopped short of calling on visitors to stay out of the region come Monday.

“I’m not here to divide people. I think that in the GTA we share in the risk and benefits of our common citizenship,” he said. “I think what you have to do when you come to York Region, you have to respect the rules, the laws and regulations of the region and of the province.”

Federal projections released on Friday suggest COVID-19 variants could fuel 20,000 new cases per day by mid-March if public health restrictions are relaxed.

The stay-at-home order remains in effect only for Toronto, Peel and North Bay-Parry Sound until at least March 8.

Ontario reported 1,087 new cases of COVID-19 and 13 deaths on Sunday.

With files from the Canadian Press

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