Toronto, Peel going into 'grey lockdown' zone next week as stay-at-home order lifts

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Toronto and neighbouring Peel Region will see restrictions loosen next week as the province lifts a strict stay-at-home order imposed earlier this year.

The two regions, along with North Bay Parry Sound, were the last ones still under the order, while most of the province transitioned back to the government's colour-coded pandemic response framework last month.

Toronto and Peel will be placed in the strictest "grey lockdown" category of the framework starting Monday, as was recommended by public health officials in the two areas.

That will allow more retailers to open, with restrictions, but leaves gyms, personal care services and indoor restaurant dining closed.

The province said Friday it opted to place Toronto and Peel in the lockdown category because the two regions are making progress but their case rates remain high.

North Bay, meanwhile, will be placed in the red zone, the second most restrictive level of pandemic measures.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said the government is taking a "safe and cautious approach" to ending the provincewide shutdown.

"Despite this positive step forward, a return to the framework is not a return to normal," she said in a statement.

"As we continue vaccinating more Ontarians, it remains critical for everyone to continue to follow public health measures and stay home as much as possible to protect themselves, their loved ones and their communities."

Some residents in Peel Region were eager Friday to see the stay-at-home order lifted.

"We’ve been locked inside our homes. It's really claustrophobic being inside (all the time)," said Aparna Monie, 40, from Mississauga.

Adam Taylor, 40, who works from his Mississauga home, says the rules for the lockdown zone should be changed to allow gyms to reopen instead of retail stores.

"I don't think people should be walking around in malls. You can do all that online and do pick-ups. Gyms are for the benefit of your health," he said.

Seven other regions will also move to different restriction levels on Monday.

The province says Peterborough, Sudbury and Simcoe-Muskoka will go into the red zone; Haldimand-Norfolk and Temiskaming will go into orange; and Haliburton, Kawartha and Pine Ridge, as well as Renfrew County, will go into yellow.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on March 5, 2021.

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press