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Ontario introduces tiered system for public health restrictions

Ontario is moving into a tiered system to control the spread of COVID-19.  The new system is designed to allow the province and local public health units to move between different stages of public health restrictions and to react quickly to prevent outbreaks, keep schools open, and protect the province’s most vulnerable.

The tiers are colour coordinated with verbal descriptions of what each level’s restrictions and health indicators are.  The five tiers in order from lesser restrictions to tightened restrictions are:

Green-Protect: Restrictions reflect the broadest allowance of activities in Stage 3 absent a widely available vaccine or treatment. The highest risk settings remain closed.

Yellow- Protect: Enhanced targeted enforcement, fines, and enhanced education to limit further transmission. Apply public health measures in high-risk settings.

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Orange- Restrict: Implement enhanced measures, restrictions, and enforcement avoiding any closures.

Red- Control: Implement broader-scale measures and restrictions, across multiple sectors, to control transmission (Return to modified Stage 2). Restrictions are the most severe available before widescale business or organizational closure.

Grey-Lockdown: Implement widescale measures and restrictions, including closures, to halt or interrupt transmission (Return to modified Stage 1 or pre-Stage 1). Consider the declaration of emergency.

(Supplied by the Ministry of Health)

The province says the goal is to have every public health unit in the Green or Prevent level but as trends in public health measures improve or worsen regions can be moved up or down levels and public health measures will change depending on the advice of individual region’s medical officers of health and the provincial health table.  In order to move to a level with loosened public health restrictions, the spread of COVID-19 must be declining for 28-days prior, or two full 14-day incubation periods of the virus.

The province has provided a list of the proposed classification of public health unit regions which sees the bulk of the province’s regions remain in the Green or Prevent level which would see no change to public health restrictions already in place.  Four regions including Brant, Halton, Durham, and Hamilton will be placed into the Yellow or Protect level with Ottawa, Toronto, Peel and York Regions, and the Eastern Ontario Health Unit in the Orange or Restrict level.  There are no region’s recommended to be put in the highest levels of Red/Control or Grey/Lockdown.  These proposed levels for each region will be confirmed by the province on Friday, November 6th, and be in force on Saturday, November 7th at 12:01 am.

(Supplied by the Ministry of Health)

The status of each health unit will be updated weekly on the Ontario government’s website.  A new dashboard will also be on the government’s website that will detail each public health unit’s positivity rates and weekly incidence rates along with other indicators on the status of the virus in each region.

The province has also said it hopes to increase testing capacity to 100,000 per day by December and keep the positivity rate below three percent.  There were only 25,279 tests done on Monday, well below the province’s current target of 50,000 per day.

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