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Residents asked to put the brakes on region hopping come Monday

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Monday, Feb 22nd, 2021

As York Region prepares to move into the province’s Red-Control zone on Monday while Toronto and Peel remain under stay-at-home orders for at least two more weeks, concerns are being raised about region-hopping leading to further spread of the COVID-19 variants.

Canada’s top doctor, Theresa Tam, says public health officials identified upwards of 700 cases of COVID-19 variants across Canada on Saturday – a finding she said lends new urgency to her calls to maintain personal COVID-19 precautions.

While overall daily case counts continued to trend downwards, Tam noted that the latest cases of variants of concern could fuel a bigger third wave of the pandemic.

Federal projections released Friday suggest COVID-19 variants could fuel 20,000 new cases per day by mid-March if public health restrictions are relaxed.

COVID-19 ‎biostatistician Ryan Imgrund says governments need to look at the reproductive value – not just case counts – as it predicts where the numbers will go. Using Thunder Bay as an example, he says they are currently in the Red-Control zone but they are showing Grey-Lockdown numbers.

“We knew they would start to show Grey numbers because they’ve had a reproductive number significantly above one for three to four weeks now. And we know that when we see cases go up, we shouldn’t be surprised that all of a sudden Yellow becomes Orange and Orange becomes Red.”

When Toronto and Peel were shut down in December, and York was still open, the province saw a rise in cases as Ontarians hopped from region to region.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott says they don’t want people travelling between regions at this point.

“This isn’t a reopening, everything is back to normal. Not at all,” she said. “Please stay in your own region, please follow the public health measures and sooner or later everyone will get to that place.”

Vaughan mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua stopped short of calling on visitors to stay out of the region come Monday.

“I’m not here to divide people. I think that in the GTA we share in the risk and benefits of our common citizenship,” he said. “I think what you have to do when you come to York Region, you have to respect the rules, the laws and regulations of the region and of the province.”

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