Ontario to announce whether COVID-19 hot spots in lockdown will reopen

TORONTO — The Ontario government will reveal today whether a stay-at-home order in four of the province’s COVID-19 hot spots will be lifted or if businesses can begin to reopen.

On Thursday, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams will make a recommendation to cabinet for approval on Friday.

The decision is expected to be announced sometime in the afternoon. Ontario Premier Doug Ford is scheduled to provide an update on the province’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution at 2 p.m., although it is not clear if he will address the reopening at that time.

CTVNewsToronto.ca will stream the announcement live.

Most of the province has transitioned into the government’s colour-coded reopening framework, which governs what restrictions are in place in each region. The only four areas yet to make the transition are Toronto, Peel Region, York Region and North Bay.

The stay-at-home order is currently scheduled to be lifted in these four regions on Feb. 22.

Even in the strictest level of the province’s reopening framework, some businesses would be allowed to reopen with capacity limits.

Health officials in both Toronto and Peel Region have called on the province for current lockdown measures to be extended for at least two weeks. The decision, officials said, would allow for more time to ensure schools are reopening safely and to learn more about the super-contagious variants of COVID-19 spreading across the province.

York Region’s medical officer of health has urged the premier to put his region in the red or “control” category of the framework, which allows in-person dining to resume at restaurants and bars, and gyms to reopen with reduced capacity.

Premier Doug Ford has previously said that if the province lifts COVID-19 restrictions, each local medical officer of health has the power to implement stricter measures in their own region.

Toronto Mayor John Tory told CP24 on Friday morning that he would be  “surprised” if the premier eased restrictions in the city next week.

“I’d be surprised only because I saw the premier saying he generally respects and tries to reflect the advice of the local medical officers of health in their decision-making,” Tory said.

“We are just trying reflect a real concern that the experts have about these variants. And if you look at the experience of the United Kingdom, if you look at the experience of Germany, what’s going on in Newfoundland, even here in Ontario, there is a reason to be concerned about that.”

The mayor said that the goal of extending the lockdown is to avoid entering another shutdown in three to five  weeks, “just as the spring is coming and just as the patios and other kinds of businesses are able to open back up.”

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