Toronto's lockdown extended until at least March 8

A man walks past a COVID-19 retail supplies sign during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto Friday Feb. 5 2021

In consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and the local medical officers of health, the Ontario government is maintaining the shutdown, the Stay-at-Home order and all existing public health and workplace safety measures for an additional two weeks in the Toronto and Peel Public Health Regions, along with the North Bay-Parry Sound District.

Toronto Public Health says while 56 COVID variants have been confirmed in the city, the discovery of new variants is "the tip of an iceberg".

York Region will see its stay-at-home order lifted and move to red on the COVID-19 framework.

The government has been moving ahead with its economic reopening despite warnings it could set off a third wave of infections.

After returning to the Framework, public health regions are required to stay in their level for at least two weeks.

The government also announced that Lambton Public Health will move from the orange zone to the red zone "as a result worsening public health trends in the region over the past week".

The reversal came after municipal officials, including Toronto Mayor John Tory, urged Ontario Premier Doug Ford to slow down reopening plans, which would have allowed struggling retailers to open at 25% capacity.

"It is critically important that residents continue to stay at home as much as possible and only go out for essential trips", Scarpitti said in a statement. The region's top doctor said COVID-19 cases doubled last week compared with the previous week, with many linked to institutional outbreaks. The York Public Health Region will transition out of the shutdown and into the revised and strengthened COVID-19 Response Framework: Keeping Ontario Safe and Open.

Provincial officials say primary physicians may begin contacting seniors in that age group while an online booking system and service desk for appointments are still in development.

Health officials are cautioning, however, that even once a person is vaccinated, they will still be advised to follow the same health restrictions as the general population as questions remain as to whether vaccinated individuals may possibly be asymptomatic carriers. Dr. Karim Kurji says while the new variants are concerning, an aggressive vaccine strategy, provincial and local restrictions and aggressive enforcement will help keep cases low.

Ontario saw a slowdown in its immunization efforts as the country was hit with significant delays in vaccine shipments this month.

Within the updated framework on phased prioritization, the Ministry of Health will continue to offer the vaccines to long-term care and high-risk retirement home residents (some were initially too ill to receive the vaccine, had a condition that might prevent them from having the vaccine, or did not initially consent when it was made available to them).

Gen. Rick Hillier, chair of Ontario's COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force, said Friday Ontario will vaccinate those over 80 starting in mid-March.

Ontario COVID-19 daily cases rose slightly Friday for the second day in a row from 1,038 cases to 1,150.

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