Declining new coronavirus cases in recent weeks means COVID-19 restrictions will be eased somewhat starting Monday in Haliburton County, Northumberland County and Kawartha Lakes.
As of 12:01 am on Monday (March 8), the Ontario government will move the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit (HKPRDHU) region to its Yellow COVID-19 colour category. This is the second lowest level in Ontario’s five-colour COVID-19 Response Framework, and one step below the current Orange category that the area has been in for the past three weeks since the provincial Stay-at-Home order was lifted in mid-February.
Under the Yellow level, most businesses and services can continue operating with COVID-19 restrictions in place. However, there are some easing of controls under Yellow, including for restaurants: the lifting of the 50-person capacity limit, the ability to stay open longer (to midnight) for in-person dining, and a limit of six people (up from four) being able to sit at the same table.
Another change is that personal care services requiring the removal of face coverings can now resume. Full details about the new COVID-19 control measures under the Yellow category are available at www.hkpr.on.ca.
“We’ve had a significant decrease in COVID-19 cases over the last two-week period, so that’s great news to be rewarded with a move to ‘Yellow’ because things are looking better,” says Dr. Ian Gemmill, Acting local Medical Officer of Health with the HKPRDHU.
“That said, I want to urge people not to let their guard down and continue taking COVID-19 precautions because the situation could quickly change.”
According to Dr. Gemmill, 98 per cent of the population is still not protected from COVID-19 since they have not yet had the disease nor been immunized against it. “We still have a lot of susceptible people out there, so it’s essential to continue taking precautions so that there is not another resurgence of infection,” he says.
Like other parts of Ontario, variants of concern have been detected in the area. These coronavirus variants tend to be more easily spread, Dr. Gemmill says, and have accounted for approximately one-quarter of all new cases detected in the HKPRDHU region in the last two weeks.
“We may be open for business, but we can’t assume it’s business as usual,” Dr. Gemmill says. “Until more people are vaccinated and we can get COVID-19 under full control, we must continue doing all we can to stop the spread.”
He advises everyone to stay home as much as possible, to limit social gatherings, to avoid unnecessary travel, and if going out for essentials like groceries or a haircut, to wear masks and to maintain 2 metres physical distancing from others.