Peel Region to be pushed into a COVID-19 red zone

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Peel Region will be under the highest COVID-19 alert level short of a lockdown as Ontario shifts to a tiered and colour-coded system for managing pandemic measures.

The provincial government released a list today classifying each public health unit under the new red, orange, yellow and green risk level system - a change that will take effect at midnight.

The move comes as heightened restrictions were set to expire in three hot spots, including Peel Region.

"The numbers that we're seeing in Peel and specifically Brampton — they're just going through the roof," Premier Doug Ford said Friday. "It's out of control right now and we have to react. These are the tough decisions I absolutely hate making."

Another of the hot spots, Toronto, will remain under a modified Stage 2 -- the restriction classification system previously used by the government -- for a week.

The new system was announced earlier this week in an effort to fight the pandemic in a more targeted manner.

What this means for Peel Region is that bars and restaurants will have a 10 person indoor capacity limit, with a maximum four per table.

Gyms and fitness studios are permitted to be open with 10 people indoors, 25 people outdoors.

Peel's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence Loh said that's not what he wanted for the region. He wanted more time in modified Stage 2.

"We are quite possibly now, the hardest-hit COVID-19 region in all of Canada," he said. "Just looking at our incidence rate which is basically now at 100 per 100,000, we also, more concerningly, are starting to see significant spikes and increases of hospitalizations."

Loh added that William Osler Hospital currently has hundreds of confirmed or probable COVID-19 patients.

He says all of Peel Region's residents need to stay away from people they don't live with.

"I would skip all the conversation and talking about what setting, what you can do, what you can't do. The simplest thing you can do right now is limit your close contact to people in your immediate household and your essential supports."

- With files from The Canadian Press.