COVID-19 Stay-at-home order lifted for Prince Edward-Hastings region

Premier Doug Ford (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

PUBLIC ASKED TO REFRAIN FROM TRAVELLING BETWEEN AREAS WITH DIFFERENT RULES

JASON PARKS

STAFF WRITER

Better than average numbers of COVID-19 cases in the Quinte region has led Premier Doug Ford to include the Hastings Prince Edward Public Health Unit area to transition to Green or Prevent Level as of Wednesday morning.

On Monday, the Premier announced the province was moving to a regional approach and maintaining the shutdown in the majority of the public health regions in Ontario, including the Stay-at-Home order and all existing public health and workplace safety measures. However, a total of three Public Health unit areas- Hastings-Prince Edward, Kingston Frontenac Lennox and Addington and Renfrew County- are being permitted by virtue of their low COVID-19 caseloads to have restrictions loosened mid week.

According to the province, based on the improving local trends of key indicators, including lower transmission of COVID-19, improving hospital capacit  and available public health capacity to conduct rapid case and contact management, the aforementioned three regions will be moving back to the Framework at the Green-Prevent level on Wednesday, February 10, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. and will no longer be subject to the Stay-at-Home order.

“Our number one priority will always be protecting the health and safety of all individuals, families and workers across the province,” said Premier Ford in a statement. “But we must also consider the severe impact COVID-19 is having on our businesses. That’s why we have been listening to business owners, and we are strengthening and adjusting the Framework to allow more businesses to safely reopen and get people back to work.”

Local businesses will be able to open their doors and offer in-person shopping for essential and non-essential items for the first time since Boxing Day when escalating COVID-19 cases and high hospital capacity forced the province to revert back to stay-at-home measures.

The provincial government acknowledged public health trends are improving in some regions faster than others and as such, the current Stay-at-Home order will be amended and individual orders making it applicable to each public health region will be made except for the three above. It is proposed that the Stay-at-Home order will continue to apply to 28 public health regions until Tuesday, February 16, 2021.

For Toronto, Peel and York regions, it is proposed that the Stay-at-Home order will continue to apply until Monday, February 22, 2021. Final decisions will be subject to review of the trends in public health indicators at that time.

“While we have seen some progress in our fight against COVID-19, the situation in our hospitals remains precarious and the new variants pose a considerable threat to all of us,” said Health Minister Christine  Elliott. “As we cautiously and gradually transition out of the provincewide shutdown, we have developed an emergency brake system giving us the flexibility to contain community spread quickly in a specific region, providing an extra layer of protection.”

Recognizing the risk posed by new variants to the province’s pandemic response, Ontario is also introducing an “emergency brake” to allow for immediate action if a public health unit region experiences rapid acceleration in COVID-19 transmission or if its health care system risks becoming overwhelmed. If this occurs, the Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams, in consultation with the local medical officer of health, may advise immediately moving a region into Grey-Lockdown to interrupt transmission.

“While we are seeing our numbers trend in the right direction, our situation remains precarious as the variants of concern remain a serious risk,” said Dr. Williams. “This is not a re-opening or a ‘return to normal’ and we must continue to limit close contact to our immediate households and stay at home except for essential reasons. By continuing to follow all public health and workplace safety measures, we can continue to reduce the number of new cases and the strain on our health system.”

While the provincewide Stay-at-Home order will cease to apply in some regions as of February 10, 2021, the province  is strongly advising the public to continue to stay at home, avoid social gatherings, minimize travel between areas with different rules and limit close contacts to their household. Employers in all industries should continue to make every effort to allow employees to work from home.

Enforcement of residential evictions will remain paused in the public health unit regions where the provincial Stay-at-Home order remains in effect. This will ensure people are not forced to leave their homes.

In regions where the Stay-at-Home order is lifted, the regular process for residential eviction enforcement will resume.

“While the declaration of emergency will be ending, the risks posed by COVID-19 and the new variants remain serious concerns,” added Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. “That’s why extending the stay-at-home orders for most of the province is necessary to protect our communities, our most vulnerable populations, and stop the spread of COVID-19. We continue to urge all Ontarians to follow public health guidelines and stay home, stay safe, and save lives.”

Todd Smith, MPP for Bay of Quinte, applauded the initiative and diligence of the local populace  to keep COVID-19 numbers low by adhering to best public health practices.

“Due to the sacrifices the people of Quinte made to adhere strictly to public health guidance, our region was among the first to re-open schools and it will again lead the Province in the resumption of business. That helps revitalize our economy,” said Smith. “Thank you everyone for doing your part to help our community move forward. I’m especially appreciative of the essential and frontline workers who have worked hard and shown incredible dedication throughout this pandemic.”