Province extends stay-at-home order amid plans to 'reopen the economy' after province-wide lockdown

The Ontario government announced on Monday that the stay-at-home orders for most of the province will be extended, but the province will begin to transitioning back to a colour-coded shut down system to gradually reopen the economy.

Lisa MacLeod, Ontario’s Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries laid out the provinces plan to return to the COVID-19 Response Framework: Keeping Ontario Safe and Open as we approach the end of the province-wide lockdown. The announcement was made over Zoom on Monday.

Ontario has been in a province-wide lockdown since Dec. 26, 2020. The stay-at-home order was added on Jan. 14.

On Feb. 10, the following public health units will move into the green ‘prevent’ category and the stay-at-home order will be lifted as well.

-Hastings Prince Edward Public Health

-Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health

-Renfrew County and District Health Unit

The stay-at-home order will remain in place for the rest of Ontario until Feb. 16, when it could be lifted depending on COVID-19 trends at the time according to government. However, the stay-at-home orders will stay in effect for Toronto, Peel and York regions until at least Feb. 22.

In the weeks to come, the province will work towards moving regions back into the colour-coded system which includes green, yellow, orange, red and grey “lockdown” stages. All public health units except for those listed above will remain in the grey “lockdown” stage.

The framework outlined by Macleod, covered the reopening plans for ski hills, drive-in cinemas, walk-in cinemas, museums, galleries, heritage institutions, libraries and retail stores.

Ski and most outdoor snow activities can operate in all zones with conditions.

Drive-in cinemas may operate in all zones except shutdown while walk in cinemas are permitted to operate in the green, yellow or orange zones with restrictions.

Museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos, science centres, landmarks and historic sites can open in green, yellow, orange and red zones with restrictions.

Non-essential retailers in the grey zones will be allowed to open up with a 25 per cent capacity limit. There will be a 50 per cent capacity limit for supermarkets, convenience stores and pharmacies.

Under the grey level, a gathering of 10 people will be permitted outside with physical distancing.

“We’ve gotten through this together. We have learned an awful lot and we’re going to come out of this stronger with an authentic tourism product and appreciation for our deep and rich heritage,” MacLeod said. “In the last 11 months, I can honestly say today is one of the good days.”

MacLeod said funding for different sectors under heritage, sport, tourism and culture will be announced in the coming weeks.

Story by Natali Trivuncic, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times