Ontario is reporting 1,631 new COVID-19 cases on the same day stay-at-home orders lift in three Ontario regions, including Toronto and Peel — which have consistently seen the highest number of infections throughout the pandemic.
Monday's cases mark the highest number of new infections in over a month.
The new daily case count brings the total number of cases since the pandemic began in Ontario to 309,927.
Toronto, Peel and North Bay were the last regions still under a stay-at-home order, and are transitioning back to the government's colour-coded pandemic response framework.
North Bay is now in the "red" category, while Toronto and Peel are entering the "grey-lockdown," something local public health officials asked for in both regions.
Despite the "lockdown" title, moving to the grey category will allow more retailers to open with restrictions. Gyms, personal care services and indoor restaurant dining, however, will stay closed.
Health Minister Christine Elliott says the government is taking a "safe and cautious approach" to ending the provincewide shutdown, which started in January.
What you need to know about retail reopening in 'grey lockdown'
Under the grey lockdown tier in Ontario's colour-coded framework, non-essential stores can open at 25 per cent capacity while indoor dining, gyms and hair salons remain closed.
Grocery stores, convenience stores and pharmacies can operate at 50 per cent capacity.
Outdoor gatherings are limited to 10 people and must comply with physical distancing rules.
Though non-essential stores in Toronto and Peel Region are allowed to open for the first time in more than 100 days, it won't be business as usual.
To prepare for visitors, major malls in these two hot spots have implemented new safety protocols, including:
- 25 per cent capacity limit.
- Live online meters to check mall capacity in real time.
- Mandatory screening (in-person or online) for all retailers, employees, and shoppers entering the malls.
Will Correia, director for Yorkdale Shopping Centre, suggests completing the Ontario Screening Questionnaire online before coming to shop as it will make customers' experiences more efficient.
"You'll get a notification on your phone that is good for the entire day and it will just make those questions really easy to answer, he said. "You show us the results that you've received when you get to the shopping centre and that will allow you access."
The new online capacity tracker for Oxford Properties shopping malls, which include Yorkdale, Square One and Scarborough Town Centre, will help distribute patrons in the mall throughout the day and allow shoppers to see exactly where capacity is so they can plan accordingly, Correia said.
For Yorkdale, 25 per cent capacity means a maximum of 6,000 people in the mall at any given time, 1,000 of which are employees.
Once full capacity is reached, a one-in-one-out system will be put into place.
Cadillac Fairview's Eaton Centre said in a statement: "We anticipate that the new restrictions may result in additional line ups inside and outside of the property and we will advise guests to prepare their visits accordingly."
Select retailers will also offer curbside pickup, storefront pick up, and/or virtual appointment shopping, both Cadillac Fairview and Oxford Properties said.
Masks mandatory, no food or drink consumption
Masks remain mandatory in the shopping centres and must be properly worn at all times. Shoppers are also strongly encouraged to shop individually or with members of the same household.
At this time, food and beverage consumption is not allowed in malls. In-dining areas are not open to the public but all food court retails are open for takeout.
With files from The Canadian Press
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