By Mike Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
It is a step in the right direction for the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit [HKPRDHU] this week as the region is being moved into the Yellow-Protect level of Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework.
Declining new coronavirus cases in recent weeks means COVID-19 restrictions were eased somewhat in Haliburton County, Northumberland County and the City of Kawartha Lakes as of Monday [March 8].
Under the Yellow-Protect level, most businesses and services can continue operating with typical COVID-19 safety protocols in place. There are some positive changes, however, for the restaurant industry – the move lifts the 50-person capacity limit for local eateries, allows them to stay open until midnight for in-person dining, and allows up to six people [up from four] to dine at the same table.
Prior to Monday’s change, the HKPR region had been operating under the Orange-Restrict level of the province’s COVID-19 response framework. While Haliburton County recorded its first direct COVID-19 death last week, there has been little other activity since Ontario’s stay-at-home order was listed in mid-February.
Dr. Ian Gemmill, HKPRDHU acting medical officer of health, believes this is a positive move for the area and its residents. Still, he warned that things could change at a moment’s notice.
“We’ve had a significant decrease in COVID-19 cases over the last two-week period, so that’s great news to be rewarded with a move to ‘Yellow’, because things are looking better,” Gemmill said. “That said, I want to urge people not to let their guard down and continue taking COVID-19 precautions because the situation could quickly change.”
According to Gemmill, 98 per cent of the population is still not protected from COVID-19, since they have neither contracted the disease, nor been immunized against it.
“We still have a lot of susceptible people out there, so it’s essential to continue taking precautions so that there is not another resurgence of infection,” Gemmill added. “We may be open for business, but we can’t assume it’s business as usual. Until more people are vaccinated and we can get COVID-19 under full control, we must continue doing all we can to stop the spread.”
He advises that local residents continue to stay home as much as possible, limit social gatherings, and avoid travel to other areas/regions.
For full details about the new COVID-19 control measures under the Yellow-Protect category, visit www.hkpr.on.ca.