Ford set to announce plan to gradually ease COVID-19 restrictions in Ontario

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is expected to announce his government’s plan to gradually ease COVID-19 restrictions in the province today, as public health units reported another 1,265 cases of the illness.

A senior government source told The Canadian Press that Ford will allow the current state of emergency to expire on schedule tomorrow. But a stay-at-home order will remain in effect as regions transition back to Ontario’s colour-coded system of restrictions over the next three weeks, the source said.

Ford is scheduled to hold a news conference beginning at 1 p.m. ET at Queen’s Park. You’ll be able to watch it live in this story.

Four public health units with few cases of COVID-19 are expected to go back to the least stringent “green” phase of reopening on Wednesday.

The source also told The Canadian Press that the government will introduce an “emergency brake” that allows the province’s top doctor to immediately move a region back into lockdown if cases spike.

Meanwhile, the additional cases reported today include 421 in Toronto, 256 in Peel and 130 in York Region.

They come as Ontario’s labs completed just 28,303 tests for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and logged a test positivity rate of 4.4 per cent.

The seven-day average of new daily cases fell to 1,327, the lowest it has been since Nov. 12, 2020. 

Public health units also recorded 33 more deaths of people with COVID-19, bringing the province’s official toll to 6,538.

More students go back to school

More of Ontario’s schools are reopening to in-person learning today.

Students in 13 public health units, including Hamilton and Windsor, will return to physical classrooms.

But in three COVID-19 hot spots — Toronto, Peel and York Region — schools will remain closed until Feb. 16.

All students in Ontario began January with online learning as part of a provincial lockdown that went into effect in late December.

The province then took a staggered approach to reopening schools, allowing those in northern Ontario and rural areas to resume in-person learning first.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the government is taking a number of steps to enhance safety in schools, such as more stringent screening for high schoolers and asymptomatic testing across the province.

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