The system places health units into categories based on case numbers and transmission rates, and determines the appropriate level of restrictions for each area. Our region, inside the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, for example, is at the “yellow” or “protect” level, which is less restrictive than the “orange” or “restrict” category in neighbouring Ottawa.
This is what each of the categories mean, from least to most restrictive:
Green – Prevent: The lowest level must have a weekly incidence rate of less than 10 people per 100,000, and fewer than 1 per cent of tests coming back positive. Restrictions include requiring two metres of space between tables in dining areas, and a maximum of 50 people in indoor exercise or workout areas. The bulk of Ontario’s health units are in this category.
Yellow – Protect: These areas have a weekly incidence rate of between 10 and 39.9 people per 100,000, a percentage of tests coming back positive between one and 2.5 per cent, and repeated or growing outbreaks across multiple sectors. Restrictions include those in the green zone, plus a limit on the serving of alcohol to between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m., the closure of all bars and restaurants at midnight, restrictions on music volumes at indoor venues, and a three-metre gap between those in exercise classes or weight rooms. Our region is currently in this category.
Orange – Restrict: These areas have a weekly incidence rate of between 40 and 99.9 people per 100,000, a percentage of tests coming back positive between 2.5 and 9.9 per cent, and repeated outbreaks in multiple sectors. Restrictions include those in the yellow zone, plus 50-person capacity limits at indoor dining venues, with a maximum of four people to a table, bar and restaurant closures at 10 p.m. and the complete closure of strip clubs, time limits and screening of those attending fitness centres, and a ban on personal care services that require face coverings to be removed. Ottawa and York Region are in this category.
Red – Control: These areas have a weekly incidence rate equal to or greater than 100 people per 100,000, a percentage of tests coming back positive of 10 per cent or higher, and repeated outbreaks in multiple sectors. Restrictions include those in the orange zone, plus 10-person capacity limits in restaurants or bars, no dancing, singing or brass or wind instruments at indoor venues, the closure of mall food courts, and no more than 10 people at indoor gyms or exercise classes, or 25 for outdoor classes. Peel Region is the only area currently in this category.
Grey – Lockdown: This category is essentially a return to the original lockdown imposed when the pandemic arrived in Ontario in March. No area is currently in this category and would need to have worsening trends after entering the “red” zone to be considered. This colour would lead to the consideration of a declaration of emergency.
More detailed information about the new system and what it means for certain sectors can be found on the Ontario government’s COVID website.