UPDATE: Stay at Home Order Remains for Windsor-Essex
Ontario will begin to gradually re-open its economy on Wednesday but if cases spike, the government could use an "emergency brake'' to move regions back into lockdown.
Premier Doug Ford says a state of emergency will be allowed to expire as scheduled Tuesday, but most regions will remain under a stay-at-home order until they transition back to the province's colour-coded restrictions system.
Three regions where COVID-19 cases are low will move to the restrictions system on Wednesday, with the rest staggered over the coming weeks.
The province is also changing the rules for the strictest category of the restrictions system that will allow previously closed businesses to re-open with capacity limits of 25 per cent.
Ford says "we must also consider the severe impact COVID-19 is having on our businesses,'' adding, "We are strengthening and adjusting the framework to allow more businesses to safely re-open.''
Health units in Hastings Prince Edward, Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington, and Renfrew County will move into the least-restrictive green category on Wednesday, which means restaurants and non-essential businesses can re-open.
The Timiskaming Health Unit, which was initially also expected to move to the green category Wednesday, will be held back for a week since a COVID-19 variant was discovered in the region over the weekend.
On February 15th, all remaining regions except three hot spots in the Greater Toronto Area are set to move to the restrictions framework.
The category they are placed in will depend on their local case rates.
Toronto, Peel Region and York Region are expected to be the last to make that transition on February 22nd, but the province said any sudden increase in cases could delay that plan.