Here is what to expect now that Niagara is in the orange ‘restrict’ category

·3 min read

As of today, Niagara is no longer in the yellow category of the province’s new COVID-19 response framework.

That means increased restrictions when it comes to dining and recreation, as well as increased screening for retail.

The announcement came on Friday Nov. 13, issued by Premier Doug Ford, that the region would be moving up a level from the yellow "protect" category to the orange "restrict" category, as the latest data from public health continues to show increases in the number of new cases, along with other key metrics trending in the wrong direction.

The new restrictions in place under the orange "restrict" level will allow all establishments, with the exception of strip clubs and night clubs, to remain open, but with a few changes.

In restaurants, indoor dining will be limited to 50 people, compared to the yellow level, which saw no set limit on capacity.

The number of people that can be seated at a table will also now decrease from 6 to 4.

Finally, restaurants and bars will be required to close by 10 p.m. rather than midnight, with liquor sales ending by 9 p.m.

In Niagara, additional restrictions to dining have been made beyond the provincial framework by a Section 22 order of the Ontario Health Protection and Promotion Act, issued by Niagara Region acting medical officer of health Dr. Mustafa Hirji.

The order, which came into effect on Saturday, limits dining to people of the same household and requires patrons to attest they are not experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19.

According to Hirji, the goal of the Section 22 order is to hopefully prevent a situation in which more severe restrictions would be required to contain the virus.

“The experience of other countries around the world is that leading with restrictions on social life early, while painful, is more effective at controlling this pandemic than delaying action, by which point much more severe measures are needed. Public health’s recent order was issued in an attempt to act early and prevent needing more onerous restrictions later.”

Restrictions under the orange level will also be felt at gyms and fitness centres.

Limits on capacity will now be 50 per facility, rather than 50 per room under the yellow level, and visits will be limited to 90 minutes.

When it comes to retail, no changes should be expected when it comes to hours or capacity, but malls will now be required to screen guests at the entrance for COVID-19 symptoms.

But more trouble could be on the horizon.

As Niagara settles into day one of restrictions under the orange "restrict" category, Hirji warns that future restrictions may not be far off, including the closure of indoor dining, if current trends aren’t quickly stabilized.

“Our metrics are starting to exceed some of the thresholds for the red ‘control' level as well (where Hamilton and Toronto currently are). We hope that being in (the) orange ‘restrict’ category, coupled with the targeted measures in public health’s Section 22 order, will create the early action needed to change our current trajectory.”

Bryan Levesque, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News