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Toronto, Peel Region in talks with province to possibly allow patios to open under COVID-19 lockdown

Click to play video: 'Toronto’s top doctor says COVID-19 data does not support moving to Red Zone yet' Toronto’s top doctor says COVID-19 data does not support moving to Red Zone yet
WATCH ABOVE: Toronto’s medical officer of health Dr. Eileen de Villa said on Wednesday that in her view, COVID-19 data does not support “the kind of reopening that would be provided for under the Red Zone designation.” Dr. de Villa said she expects the province will announce a formal decision Friday – Mar 17, 2021

City of Toronto and Peel Region officials say they’re in talks with the Ontario government to explore possible amendments to the province’s grey-lockdown COVID-19 restrictions that could allow for more outdoor activities, including the opening of patios.

Dr. Eileen de Villa and Dr. Lawrence Loh, the medical officers of health for Toronto and Peel Region respectively, both said on Wednesday they do not believe their regions should open further by moving to a new level of the coronavirus response framework.

Instead, they said they are open to amendments for the grey-lockdown level as warmer weather approaches.

Both Toronto and Peel have been in grey-lockdown — the strictest level in the framework — since March 8 when a stay-at-home order lifted.

Read more: 3 mass COVID-19 immunization clinics open in Toronto

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Those restrictions include a ban on in-person dining at restaurants and bars, personal care services, and gyms.

“In our conversations, we’ve indicated an openness to a modest expansion of the options available to people in Toronto, particularly outdoor-focused activity,” de Villa said.

Options being discussed include allowing outdoor dining and outdoor fitness and exercise.

“I want to stress these are ongoing discussions,” Toronto Mayor John Tory said.

“Nothing has been finalized at this point and changes to the grey zone of course would have to be made by the province.”

De Villa said she expects the province to make a decision on where Toronto belongs in the COVID-19 response framework on Friday.

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When asked whether officials would consider allowing other activities to place take outdoors such as hair cuts, she said she would be open to those talks. However, current discussions have mainly dealt with outdoor dining and fitness.

De Villa said outdoor activities present a “much lower risk” in spreading COVID-19 when compared to those done inside.

She said allowing outdoor dining and fitness activities would be “reasonable, modest expansions” given the current state of COVID-19.

Read more: Capacity limits increased for weddings, funerals under Ontario’s grey lockdown restrictions

Meanwhile, in Peel Region, Loh said officials are exploring striking a balance between the warmer weather, the growth of variant cases, vaccine supply, and community fatigue.

“It is about how do we leverage a change in climate, recognizing that when ‘grey’ was originally written, that was when we were heading into the winter and now it’s considering for seasonal adjustments,” he said.

Ontario reported 1,508 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, 542 of which were in Toronto and 253 in Peel Region.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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