Ontario will begin to gradually reopen its economy on Wednesday but the government said it would move regions back into lockdown if COVID-19 cases spiked.
Premier Doug Ford said the province’s state of emergency would expire as scheduled on Tuesday and regions would transition back to a colour-coded restrictions system over the next three weeks. Until then, a stay-at-home order would remain in place.
“We can’t return to normal, not yet,” Ford said on Monday. “But we can transition out of the province-wide shutdown.”
As part of its efforts, the province is changing the rules to allow previously closed non-essential retailers in lockdown zones to reopen with capacity limits of 25 per cent.
“To those business owners who are struggling, I want you to know that we have listened,” Ford said.
Where will reopening start?
Three health units ― Hastings Prince Edward; Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington; and Renfrew County ― will move into the least-restrictive green category on Wednesday, which means restaurants and non-essential businesses can reopen.
The Timiskaming Health Unit, which was also expected to move to the green category Wednesday, will be held back for a week since a COVID-19 variant was discovered in the region over the weekend, the province said.
On Feb. 16, all remaining regions except three hot spots in the Greater Toronto Area are set to move to the restrictions framework. The category they are placed in will depend on their local case rates.