Sinthia Hoque:- After several months of being in lockdown, Toronto and Peel region’s top doctors are now asking to be moved into the grey zone.
Both are suggesting to be moved in to grey zone, when and if the stay-at-home orders expire on March 8th.
There will still be a lockdown for the region, however the grey zone, according to Toronto’s Medical officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, will allow for, ‘more flexibility.
At a news conference on Wednesday, both she and her Peel region counterpart, Dr. Lawrence Loh cautioned residents to continue to stay-at-home and only leave for essential needs.
If the request is approved by the provincial government, it would allow nonessential retail stores to reopen, including those in shopping malls.
However most stores will continue to operate at 25 per cent capacity. Grocery stores, convenience stores, and other businesses that essentially sell food will continue operation at 50 per cent capacity.
Restaurants and bars will remain open for takeout and delivery only. Other businesses such as gyms and salons will remain closed for at least another two weeks.
Indoor gatherings will only be permitted for those within the same household and outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people will be permitted.
“Based on the data in front of us it is clear that reopening widely such as under the red category of the provincial framework is not advisable at this time given our case counts, de Villa said. “Moving out of the stay-at-home order is a reasonable course of action for Toronto although I will add that while there are evident reasons for a change in status there remain reasons or risks that underscore how moving back into grey status is, or will be, a delicate balance”.
Ontario had lifted its state of emergency last month and began to gradually move regions back into its framework, with the exception of Toronto, Peel, and North Bay which remains under an extended stay-at-home order.
As part of Toronto’s potential move back into the grey zone, Dr. Eileen de Villa has issued a section 22 order which will establish a series of requirements for workplaces with active outbreaks, including a mandatory requirement of employees wearing masks at all times.
De Villa has also asked the Ministry of Labour to conduct a ‘workplace inspection blitz’ in Toronto.
“I am very sympathetic to those who will not be able to reopen going into grey but I think the best way in which we can avoid that further lockdown later on, which I think everybody to a person says would be the worst-case scenario, is to take these cautious steps one at a time and to follow public health advice and keep doing what we have been doing in many respects and then the day may not be too far down the road where we can do more”, said Mayor John Tory said during Wednesday’s briefing.
Just mere hours after de Villa’s announcement, Peel’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Lawrence Loh had confirmed that he will also advocate for his region to be moved into the grey zone.
“From five cases two weeks ago we now have over 100 confirmed cases of variants in our community and 600 that have screened positive and these numbers give me pause”, Loh mentions. “Our hospitals are also seeing admissions related to spreading of variants and while ICU occupancy has improved from the peak of the second wave it still remains at levels similar to what we saw in wave one in the spring of 2020. Reopening too quickly risks eliminating the gains we have made and putting lives and wellbeing at risk”.
Peel’s average case count had risen from 194 at this time last week to 213.
If conditions were different, Loh says he would recommend loosening the restrictions as he did back in July but it’s not possible to do so while case counts are continuing to rise.
At a news conference on Wednesday afternoon, Crombie mentions though she is disappointed, she does understand the reasoning behind this decision. However, she does want the data to be reviewed on a weekly basis so that Peel can be moved into the red zone as soon as possible.
The province has said that the regions will not move to a new zone in its framework until it has two weeks’ worth of data.