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Ontario lowers threshold, Halton Region pushed into Red Zone restrictions

In a response to rising case numbers and criticism from the province's medical community, the Ontario government has lowered the threshold of its five-level colour-coded Covid response framework. The threshold for Red Zone cases has been lessened from 100 cases per 100,000 to 40 per 100,000 pushing Halton Region and much of the GTA into that classification. As a result, expect new restrictions to be put in place this week.


The five-colour Covid response framework was only introduced two weeks ago as a refinement on the three-stage system previously in use. The levels range from the least serious restrictions in green zones, increase in severity through yellow, orange and red zones, to the most severe grey level which involves major restrictions including closures.


However, despite the Code Red designation, most businesses in Acton will be able to function safely as they have been doing since June, albeit with some modifications. Restaurants will probably be the most impacted, with a maximum of 10 sit-down customers allowed at a time, a maximum of four people per table, as well as no liquor sales after 9 p.m. Public events and social gatherings will be restricted to 10 people inside and 25 outside. Religious gatherings are restricted to 30 percent of capacity or 100 outside.


Less than a month ago, Halton Region's mayors including Halton Hills, Burlington, Oakville and Milton, were lobbying the Provincial Government against increased restrictions. But unlike the shut down in Stage three, the government's new framework aims to keep non-essential businesses and schools open. Fitness and dance classes will be allowed to operate at a maximum of 10 people inside and 25 outside. Sports teams are allowed to practice but are not permitted any scrimmages or games.


But as of Monday, all businesses will require customers to complete a questionnaire and collect contact data, if they haven't been doing so until now. As well, retail businesses and workplaces will have to produce a safety plan if requested to do so. A full list of Code Red restrictions is available at https://www.ontario.ca/page/covid-19-response-framework-keeping-ontario-safe-and-open?fbclid=IwAR3B0qklnPRiCI0PdI9qq-2SOAPkv7pZb6go8iiHYgh3O0TI4njCkqIN-LI#red.


According to Premier Ford, the downward realignment of the threshold was made to bend the curve and allow a quicker response to the virus. “These adjustments are necessary to respond to the latest evidence we're seeing and we are prepared to make further adjustments as the health experts continue to review the current public health restrictions. We must do whatever it takes to stop our hospital from being overwhelmed and protect our most vulnerable,” he said.


According to Jason Shein, owner of the Red Harp Inn, the code red restrictions will affect his business. “But we'll ramp up our take-out business and we'll take reservations for the indoor dining. We've been prepared for this, that's why we've got the tent. I wouldn't be surprised if we go into a total shut down in the next few weeks,” he said. “A lot of people aren't paying attention to the rules and guidelines. The government has tightened up the threshold and they'll be faster at the draw. If they don't stop it, it's going to get out of control very quickly.”



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