BARRIE, ONT. -- Tensions are building across Simcoe Muskoka over the latest lockdown that forced many small businesses to close yet again.

"I can go to Winners. I can go shopping today. How is it that a lockdown?" said salon owner Cindy Rosebrugh.

Protesters gathered in Midland and Wasaga Beach Wednesday to support local business owners struggling to survive with no answers about when the region might return to the red zone.

Barbershop owner, Justin McIntaggart, said business owners are frustrated as the pandemic drags on. "We're not against the virus. We believe in it. We know that it is serious, and that is very dangerous."

The History Barbershop owner said they should be allowed to offer service. "We believe that we can definitely provide our businesses safely and that not operating them is going to be much more harmful for the people in the area."

On Tuesday, during a Facebook Live update, the region's chief medical officer of health said he had received hundreds of emails, most opposing the lockdown measures.

Dr. Charles Gardner said he's not surprised many businesses might refuse to follow the lockdown order. "I expected it considering the response that I received."

The region's top doctor said he advised the province to tighten measures in Simcoe Muskoka over growing concerns about rising COVID-19 variant cases.

"Hindsight is 20/20," he continued. "When you move into something, and you get this degree of opposition, you have to question it. But we need to move forward from here and say, "How do we move on from here? How do we deal with this?'"

Meanwhile, some business owners said the choice to remain open isn't an act of defiance.

"If I close my doors, I won't reopen them," the owner of Sun Emporium, Christian Linkert, said. "It's not that I'm trying to fight the man. It's not that I'm going against these recommendations. It's just - I have to do this to keep my business running."

On Wednesday, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit reported 14 new UK B.1.1.7 variant cases. The region now has 205 confirmed variant cases, with an additional 378 cases that screened positive for a variant of concern - they require further testing to confirm.