Ontario, other Canada regions start easing pandemic restrictions

·2-min read
Ontario has been on lockdown since December 26, with restrictions tighter in Toronto, seen here when it locked down November 23

Ontario announced Monday a gradual easing of pandemic restrictions in parts of Canada's most populous province, but said Toronto would remain shut down for at least two more weeks.

The loosening of the province's lockdown, in place since December 26, comes after Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations dropped.

Quebec, Alberta and Nova Scotia also moved to lift public health restrictions.

"Today, we're seeing some sunlight break through the clouds," Ontario Premier Doug Ford told a news conference.

"Daily (Covid-19) case numbers are down, transmission rates are down, less people are being hospitalized," he said. "The measures are working."

A state of emergency in the province of 14 million residents would expire at the end of Tuesday, with retailers allowed to reopen Wednesday, albeit with reduced shopping capacity.

Toronto and a handful of other Ontario hotspots, however, will have to wait until February 22 for stay-at-home orders to be rescinded.

"Let me be clear, if we see the numbers spike again, we're prepared to take further action as necessary," Ford commented, raising concerns about new Covid-19 variants such as one from Brazil detected in Toronto on Sunday.

Ontario has also recorded some 200 infections of the British and South African variant strains.

In neighboring Quebec, non-essential businesses and museums were allowed to reopen Monday, but a night curfew is to stay in effect for another two weeks.

Movie theaters, bars and restaurants also remain closed.

In Alberta, gyms reopened for one-on-one workouts, and restaurants closed late last year were permitted to start offering in-person dining.

Meanwhile, Nova Scotia -- home to Canada's Atlantic navy fleet -- increased gathering limits to 100 people indoors and 150 outside for events such as bingo, weddings, and festivals.

As of Monday, Canada had more than 800,000 Covid-19 cases and nearly 21,000 deaths. Ontario accounted for about one-third of these cases and fatalities.