TORONTO — The COVID-19 hot spots of Toronto and Peel Region, as well as a northern community dealing with a spike in cases, will remain under a stay-at-home order for at least two more weeks, the Ontario government said Friday.
The decision followed calls from Toronto and Peel to keep strict measures in place to prevent more illness and death.
The province said it made the decision based on public health indicators and consultations with local medical officers of health.
“These are difficult but necessary decisions, in order to protect against COVID-19 variants and maintain the progress we have all made together,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a statement.
Case rates still too high
The government said case rates are still too high in Toronto and Peel, and variants spreading in the North Bay, Ont., area meant that region also needed to remain under the stay-home order in order to preserve health-system capacity.
York Region, however, will see the order lift next week as it moves to the red ― or second-strictest — category of Ontario’s tiered pandemic restrictions framework. That means the reopening of non-essential retail, fitness facilities and indoor restaurant dining with safety requirements.
All of Ontario was under a stay-at-home order and the strictest public health measures until the government began easing restrictions gradually in certain regions last week. The majority of the province transitioned back to Ontario’s tiered restrictions system earlier this week.
Toronto, Peel and North Bay are now the only regions that will remain under the strictest orders until at least March. 8.
The province also said on Friday that it was moving the region covered by the Lambton public health unit to the red category of its restrictions framework due to worsening trends in the area.
The government has been moving ahead with its economic reopening despite warnings it could set off a third wave of infections.
Cases have been declining but projections show more contagious variants will soon become dominant and could lead to a dramatic spike in infections.
Part of the province’s reopening plan includes an “emergency brake” measure that allows it to swiftly move regions back into lockdown if cases rise.
Ontario reported 1,150 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday and 47 more deaths from the virus.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 18, 2021.
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