Premier Doug Ford commenced his press conference this afternoon by indicating that, "Today we're seeing some sunlight break through the clouds." Ford makes this declaration on the heels of a steady decline in new COVID-19 cases throughout the province over the past several weeks. This progress, Ford indicated, has allowed the government to introduce a plan to gradually loosen restrictions across the province and make the shift back into the government's colour-coded reopening framework.

Important Dates:

Tuesday, February 9, 2021:

The provincial emergency declared under s 7.0.1 of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act will be allowed to terminate.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021:

The province's stay-at-home order will be lifted in the following public health units:

  • Hastings Prince Edward Public Health;
  • Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health; and
  • Renfrew County and District Health Unit.

These regions will move into the Green-Prevent Level (the least stringent in terms of COVID-19 restrictions), which will allow businesses, including all retail shops, hair salons, restaurants, bars, gyms and movie theatres to reopen, and private indoor gatherings to resume.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021:

Depending upon COVID-19 trends at the time, the province's stay-at-home order will be lifted in the remaining 28 public health units – with the exception of Toronto, Peel Region, and York Region.

Monday, February 22, 2021: 

Will be the earliest date that the province's stay-at-home order will be lifted in Toronto, Peel Region and York Region.

All except the three public health units listed above (which will be moving to green) will stay in the Grey-Lockdown Zone.

Changes to Grey-Lockdown Zone:

The government indicated that over the coming weeks, the province will progressively move more regions back into the five-tiered, colour-coded system, which includes: Green-Prevent, Yellow-Protect, Orange-Restrict, Red-Control and Grey-Lockdown levels.

However, in a move to "support the province's economic recovery", the province outlined two changes to the set of restrictions that apply to the Grey-Lockdown Zone including:

  • Pharmacies, convenience stores and stores that primarily sell groceries can operate in grey zones with 50 per cent of regular indoor capacity; and
  • Non-essential retailers including discount and big box retailers, liquor stores, hardware stores and garden centres can operate in the grey zones with a 25 per cent capacity limit.

Practical Takeaways:

While an encouraging step in the right direction – this announcement essentially denotes that in-person dining, personal services like hair and nail care, gyms and private indoor gatherings will remain prohibited throughout the majority of the province until further notice.

Nonetheless, this should not come as a surprise as both Ford and Minister of Health Christine Elliott repeatedly warned that, "This is not a reopening or a return to normal. It is an acknowledgement that we are making steady progress."

Elliott also noted the province is instituting an "emergency brake" in its plan to quickly move a region into lockdown if it experiences a rapid increase in cases, or if its health-care system becomes overwhelmed. Elliott clarified that her trepidation stems from the slew of new COVID-19 variants still looming over Ontario, with variant cases being found in several areas of the province. As such, she maintained that the province must "remain vigilant" until we are able to demonstrate consistent progress and improvement.

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