New tiered COVID-19 restriction system introduced in Ontario

Ontario is introducing a new tiered system that will determine when and to what extent COVID-19 restrictions are placed on parts of the province, a move the government said will help fight the pandemic at a regional level.

Premier Doug Ford said Tuesday that the colour-coded system will allow residents and hard-hit businesses to see how their communities are faring and understand why stronger restrictions might be needed.

``We're giving you a clear understanding of where you are as a region,'' Ford said. ``I know that you want access to more data. I know you want predictability.''

Areas with the lowest levels of virus case counts, positivity rates and community transmission will be placed in a green category, with the most permissive rules.

The system then moves upward through yellow, orange and red categories, with increasingly strict measures, and has a grey ``lockdown'' level where maximum measures would be implemented.

The system goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, when restrictions previously placed on the hot spots of Peel Region and Ottawa will ease.

At the request of Toronto Mayor John Tory, the province will ease restrictions imposed on that city on Nov. 14.

The new system would see most Ontario regions placed in the green category, while Brant County, Durham and Halton regions, and Hamilton are placed in the yellow category.

Peel Region, York Region and the Ottawa area will fall into the orange category, which places capacity limits and other restrictions on indoor restaurant dining, gyms and cinemas, but allows them to operate.

The province said it will review each region's COVID-19 data at the end of this week before making a final determination on what categories communities fall into.

Under the new system, a region that moves up into a category with tighter restrictions will stay there for 28 days.

Health officials said it will be re-evaluated based on two weeks of information before being considered for movement back into a lower category.

Ford said the new measures will help give businesses and workers more certainty and allow the province to move more quickly against the virus in a targeted way.

``Early interventions will help us avoid more restrictive measures like the shutdowns and lock downs we're now seeing in more and more countries around the world,'' he said.

The official Opposition expressed a lack of confidence in the plan Tuesday, saying many communities and small businesses simply can't afford to ``slide in and out'' of closures as they move between tiers.

``We're quite concerned about the flexibility in this program that is being unveiled by the government,'' NDP legislator Taras Natyshak said, adding more support is needed to help businesses navigate the uncertainty.

The province's new COVID-19 response framework is being introduced as it reported a new daily high of 1,050 cases of the virus on Tuesday. Ontario also reported 14 additional deaths today.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said 408 of the new cases are in Toronto, 212 are in Peel Region, 86 in Halton Region, 76 in York Region and 57 in Durham Region.

The province imposed a 28-day period of tighter restrictions on Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa on Oct. 10, and did the same for York Region a week later.

 Those measures shut down indoor restaurant dining, and closed gyms and cinemas, among other things.