Businesses reopening as region moves into red tier
KITCHENER -- Waterloo Region moved back into the red tier of Ontario's reopening framework on Tuesday.
Gyms, restaurants, salons and stores are allowed to open for business again, with restrictions in place.
Despite lifting the stay-at-home order, officials say it's not a return to normal.
"We just stay home, go for walks. The weather helps with that," said Yvonne Kurtz.
Social gatherings are limited to five people indoors and 25 people outdoors.
Restaurants can seat up to 10 people indoors and need to close by 10 p.m. Liquor sales end at 9 p.m.
Gyms can have classes of 10 people inside or 25 outside, but teams sports are only allowed for training.
The province is advising people to follow public health advice and stay home as much as possible.
"We were asked to stay at home and we were mandated to do so, but now we can gather in gyms, we can gather in meetings, go to restaurants, and so on," epidemiologist Dr. Ahmed Al-Jaishi said. "So, what has changed in those two days?"
Dr. Al-Jaishi said even limited reopening can give the public mixed messages.
"I think people would think the risk has changed, but really that hasn't changed," Dr. Al-Jaishi said.
Public health officials said people should only be gather with people in their immediate household.
"The provincial changes do not represent a return to normal or reopening," Medical Officer of Health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang said. "Though some restrictions have been lifted by the Province, we continue to recommend all residents limit mobility by limiting non-essential trips and avoiding social interactions with others outside their immediate household members. We’re advising all residents to follow public health measures, they are our best protection against the spread of COVID-19, especially with the new variants."
People who live alone can have close contact with one other household.
Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph has also moved into the red tier.
“The province has moved our region to the red control level of the framework. Public health supports the reopening of the region – where it can be accomplished safely," said Dr. Nicola Mercer, medical officer of health for that region. "For all of us, I strongly urge everyone to treat the framework as the minimum we must do. We should all look for ways our individual choices can help reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19 and keep our region as safe as possible.”
The province has added an "emergency brake" to the reopening framework, allowing them to put a region into lockdown immediately if cases begin to rise.
"With the current strategy, we are actually going to see a stark increase in cases in mid to early March," Dr. Al-Jaishi said. "I worry we might go into another third lockdown."