Simcoe Muskoka returns to Red-level restrictions with lockdown lifted
BARRIE, ONT. -- Simcoe Muskoka is now in the red-control zone after the province's lockdown lifted on Tuesday.
The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit is one of 27 public health units to make the transition back to the colour-coded system.
The red zone means for the first time since Dec. 26, stores and services can reopen with limited capacity.
Indoor gatherings should be capped at five people, and outdoor gatherings are limited to 25.
Religious services, including weddings and funerals, where physical distancing can be maintained, are limited to 30 per cent capacity of indoor venues and 100 people outdoors.
The region has seen a gradual downward trend in COVID-19 infections in recent weeks, but the threat of the UK variant remains.
The province lifted the stay-at-home order despite medical officials' warning that it could lead to a third wave of COVID-19.
Simcoe Muskoka's medical officer of health said he would have preferred the lockdown remain in place since there is evidence it has been helping to reduce the infection rate.
Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman echoed those sentiments.
"It does feel a little early. I think we've been cautioned that you know if the restrictions are let go too soon, or people don't follow these guidelines that we might have a third wave, and we might be forced back into some form of lockdown in March or April. Nobody wants that," Lehman said.
The region's top doctor urged the public to continue to stay at home except for essential reasons, like grocery shopping or attending school.
Meanwhile, Ontario's premier said lifting the stay-at-home order isn't "reopening the province."
"We're transitioning into the framework that was laid out by the health team, and we won't hesitate to pull on the brakes at any given time," Premier Doug Ford said.