KITCHENER -- The stay-at-home order will remain in effect in Waterloo Region until Feb. 16.

The province announced the extension in most health units on Monday afternoon.

Officials also announced changes to the COVID-19 Response Framework, which lays out how Ontario will gradually reopen.

"Our number one priority will always be protecting the health and safety of all individuals, families and workers across the province," said Premier Doug Ford in a news release. "But we must also consider the severe impact COVID-19 is having on our businesses. That's why we have been listening to business owners, and we are strengthening and adjusting the framework to allow more businesses to safely reopen and get people back to work."

Waterloo Region is one of 28 health regions in Ontario where the stay-at-home order is extended to Feb. 16. Toronto, Peel and York's order will remain in place until Feb. 22.

The province said final decisions on these dates will depend on public health indicators and trends in individual regions.

"Hopefully we will open up as much as possible come the 16th," Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic said.

It's not clear what tier level the region will enter once the lockdown ends. The province will make final decisions prior to Feb. 16.

"We went into this in the red zone and I think, either way, small retail will have an opportunity to start opening up and I think that's the message that regional council was trying to drive to the province," Coun. Geoff Lorentz said.

"Trends for Waterloo Region continue to move in the right direction and I am supportive of a gradual approach to lifting current restrictions," a statement from Medical Officer of Health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang said in part.

Coun. Michael Harris said the new restrictions within the tier system will allow small businesses to compete with big box stores.

"I think it's good that the province has allowed all retail, whether you're in that lockdown zone, to open up at a 25 per cent capacity," he said.

Vrbanovic said it's important not to open too quickly.

"Risk potentially the province using the new 'brake,' as they refer to it, and shut things down again," he said. "That would be very detrimental to the business community and to the spirits of people in the community."
The "emergency brake" allows the province to move a region back into lockdown immediately if cases begin to rise.

The stay-at-home order will end Wednesday in Hastings Prince Edward Public Health, Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health, and Renfrew County and District Health Unit.

With reporting by CTV News Kitchener's Natalie van Rooy