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Ontario announces Toronto, Peel Region moving to Grey-Lockdown, earlier vaccine rollout

Friday, March 05, 2021 @ 3:36 PM | By John Schofield

Ontario is ceasing its stay-at-home order in Toronto and Peel Region and moving the two COVID-19 hot zones to the government’s Grey-Lockdown level of public health restrictions effective March 8 at 12:01 a.m.

In a March 5 government news release, the province also announced it is moving eight other public health regions to different categories under its modified, colour-coded COVID-19 response framework starting March 8.

Entering the Red-Control level of public health restrictions will be Peterborough Public Health, Public Health Sudbury and Districts, Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit and North Bay Parry Sound District, which had also been under a stay-at-home order due to rising cases of COVID-19 variants of concern. Improved public health indicators in the area warranted a move to Red-Control, said the news release.

In other changes, Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit and Timiskaming Health Unit will move to Orange-Restrict, while entering the Yellow-Protect level will be Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit and Renfrew County and District Health Unit.

The March 5 announcement now returns the entire province to various levels of the COVID-19 framework.

“Despite this positive step forward, a return to the framework is not a return to normal,” Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott said in the release. “As we continue vaccinating more Ontarians, it remains critical for everyone to continue to follow public health measures and stay home as much as possible to protect themselves, their loved ones and their communities.”

Under the modified Grey-Lockdown category, small businesses are allowed to open at 25 per cent customer capacity, excluding personal care services like hair salons. Supermarkets, pharmacies and convenience stores will be allowed to operate at 50 per cent capacity and outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people will be permitted.

The framework’s Red-Control category allows restaurants to offer in-person dining and permits the opening of other businesses such as gyms and hair salons.

In a separate March 5 news release, Ontario announced that it expects to begin phase 2 of its COVID-19 vaccine rollout in April, about two months ahead of its previous estimate. About nine million Ontarians are expected to receive their first dose of an approved vaccine from April to July, with the priority being placed during phase 2 on those aged 60 to 79 — an estimated 2.5 million people. Phase 2 will also target vulnerable individuals and hot spots in Ontario’s 34 public health districts. 

According to the release, the province will launch an online booking system and a provincial customer service desk starting March 15 to answer questions and support appointment bookings at mass immunization clinics. The services will initially be geared to those over 80 as part of phase 1, eventually extending to more groups during phase 2. Some public health units are currently using their own booking systems, but most are expected to transition to the provincial system after it has launched, the release said.

Based on per capita provincial vaccine distribution, Ontario has lagged behind other provinces, standing in seventh place among the 10 provinces, according to news reports.

On March 5, Ontario reported 1,250 new COVID-19 cases and 22 more deaths from the disease. The new total put the seven-day average of new cases at 1,052, down from 1,063 on March 4 and 1,114 on Feb. 26. Toronto accounted for 337 of the new infections on March 5, while 167 were registered in Peel Region and 129 in York Region. The province reported 155 more cases of the B.1.1.7 or U.K. variant, bringing the total to 799.

On March 4, Ontario MPPs voted in favour of Motion 129, Voula’s Law, which was put forward by Ontario NDP MPP Joel Harden (Ottawa Centre) to prevent long-term care and group homes from using trespass laws to keep family advocates out when they raise concerns about their loved ones’ living conditions.

“This motion is only the first step,” Harden said in a prepared statement. “The Ford government must respect the will of the legislature and clarify to care home operators that trespass orders cannot be issued to ban family members who speak out about their loved ones’ living conditions. Families have waited long enough. It’s time for this government to act and put an end to this cruel practice once and for all.”

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