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Ontario extends stay-at-home order in Toronto, Peel Region, North Bay

Friday, February 19, 2021 @ 4:11 PM | By John Schofield


At the urging of local medical officers of health, Ontario is extending its stay-at-home order and other COVID-19 public health restrictions in Toronto, Peel Region and the North Bay-Parry Sound district to at least March 8.

As of Feb. 22 at 12:01 a.m., York Region will transition to the Red-Control category under the province’s revised COVID-19 response framework, which allows small businesses to open at 25 per cent customer capacity, even for those in the Grey-Lockdown zone.

Under Red-Control, indoor dining, gyms and hair salons may reopen with reduced capacity. Indoor gatherings are limited to five people and outdoor gatherings are restricted to 25. Weddings and religious services may resume with 30 per cent indoor capacity.

In a Feb. 19 news release, the province also announced that, effective Feb. 22, the Lambton Public Health region will move from Orange-Restrict to Red-Control because of worsening public health trends in the area.

Despite a decline in transmission in Toronto and Peel Region, the news release noted, case rates still remain high — at 83.4 cases per 100,000 people for Peel and 67.9 cases per 100,000 people for Toronto. In the North Bay-Parry Sound District, the case rate has increased by 11.5 per cent to 14.6 cases per 100,000 people and COVID-19 variants remain a serious risk to community transmission and health system capacity.

“While the health indicators have improved enough to allow us to return an additional region to the framework, we are not yet at the point where we can safely transition back the remainder of the province,” Dr. David Williams, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said in the news release. “Everyone is strongly advised to continue staying at home, avoid social gatherings, only travel between regions for essential purposes, and limit close contacts to your household or those you live with regardless of which level of the framework you are in.”

Enforcement of residential evictions will remain paused in the public health regions where the provincial stay-at-home order remains in effect, said the release. Across the province, local medical officers of health will continue to have the ability to issue s. 22 orders under the Health Protection and Promotion Act to target specific transmission risks in the community.

On Friday, the Ontario Ministry of Health reported 1,150 new cases of COVID-19 and an additional 47 deaths. Of the new cases, 376 were in Toronto, 264 were in Peel, 108 were in York Region, 43 were in Hamilton, 41 were in Durham and 37 were in Halton.

The figures included 39 new, confirmed cases of COVID-19 variants, bringing the total to at least 395. However, the Ministry announced that the test positivity rate for the previous 24 hours was 2.1 per cent, its lowest point since Oct. 16.

In a separate Feb. 19 news release, the province reported that more than 500,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccines have been given to phase one priority populations, which now includes adults 80 years of age and older. Adults in Ontario’s 31 fly-in First Nations communities and Moosonee in Northern Ontario are being vaccinated as part of an initiative the government is calling Operation Remote Immunity, which is being led by the Ornge air ambulance service. The government also said it is developing an online booking system to support the next phase of vaccination rollout.

Meanwhile, in a Feb. 18 news release, NDP Official Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath said a public, independent judicial inquiry should be launched in the coming months into Ontario’s handling of the pandemic, which so far has claimed the lives of more than 6,700 people in the province — many of them in long-term care.

“It’s shameful that neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives followed the lessons learned from the SARS crisis, leaving us without a stock of personal protective equipment heading into the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Horwath. “People deserve a full, independent account of the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, and they deserve hope and reassurance that Ontario will be better prepared and better protected when the next public health emergency comes.”

The NDP release noted that Ontario’s Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission has already revealed gaps in the government’s response and made interim recommendations, but its work has been carried out largely behind closed doors.

If you have any information, story ideas or news tips for The Lawyer’s Daily please contact John Schofield at john.schofield@lexisnexis.ca or call 905-415-5891.