Excerpt from CTV News – By Chris FoxWeb Content Writer, CP24
TORONTO — The Ontario government will scrap the colour-coded framework for COVID-19 restrictions that it introduced in the fall and replace it with a new reopening plan that Health Minister Christine Elliott says will be released “very soon.”
The framework was unveiled in early November during the second wave of the pandemic but was effectively set aside when Premier Doug Ford put Ontario under a province wide lockdown at the beginning of April.
When it was in place the framework was supposed to give the province the ability to quickly ramp up restrictions in regions experiencing a rise in COVID-19 transmission but it was often criticized for being cumbersome and setting too high of a bar for moving regions into its most restrictive category.
On Tuesday, a spokesperson for Ford’s office confirmed that the colour-coded framework will not be revived as Ontario begins to lift restrictions, though it remains unclear what it will be replaced by.
The news comes hours after Health Minister Christine Elliott told reporters at Queen’s Park that work was underway on a new reopening plan that will outline what can reopen and when.
“We have been working with the chief medical officer of health and the medical experts on a safe and careful reopening of Ontario because the last thing we want is to go into it too quickly and to get into a fourth wave. We have to do everything we can to avoid that so we are working on that and we expect it will be available very soon,” Elliott said. “It is sector specific looking at what different types of sectors could perhaps be reopened and what their specific needs and timelines are.”
The Ford government released a staged reopening plan on April 27 of last year, though it did not actually begin to lift restrictions until nearly a month later.
Sources within the Progressive Conservative government tell CTV News Toronto that while the new reopening plan hasn’t reached the cabinet table yet, the premier, ministers and public health officials have been engaged in discussions over the thresholds to reopen.
Sources say the government is examining a number of different scenarios, including the specific benchmarks to trigger sector specific or regional openings, but hasn’t yet agreed on which direction to take.
Elliott was coy about when Ontario will begin to reopen its economy while speaking with reporters but she said that it will be based on a number of key indicators, including hospitalization rates.
Sources, meanwhile, tell CTV News Toronto that while an exact date to reopen hasn’t been decided, the government is working on a rough timeline of June and early July to fully unlock the economy.
“It is not necessarily just the situation with respect to the number of people vaccinated though we do expect to reach 65 per cent (with one dose) before the end of May. But is also based on the hospitalization rates, the number of people in intensive care and the reproductive number. So there are a number of indicators that have to be looked at together in order to make that determination about when we can move into the first stage of reopening,” Elliott said Tuesday.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams has previously said that he would like to see daily case counts “well below 1,000” before restrictions are lifted. Ontario’s seven-day average is currently 2,287.
With files from CTV News Toronto’s Queen’s Park Bureau Chief Colin D’Mello