TORONTO -- The Ontario government will allow the resumption of haircuts and outdoor fitness classes in the grey zone as the province moves Hamilton back into lockdown.

In a news release issued Friday, the government said personal care services, such as barber shops, hair and nail salons, and body art establishments, will be able to operate on an appointment-basis at less than 25 per cent capacity or five patrons starting April 12.

Additionally, outdoor fitness classes will be allowed to resume starting March 29, with a maximum of 10 people.

The changes are subject to approval by Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor, who has yet to sign off on the modifications to the regulations.

The decision to move Hamilton back into lockdown comes after the city's case rate increased by 37.6 per cent, to 109.4 cases per 100,000 people from March 15 to 22, according to the government. Also, Eastern Ontario will be moving to the red level from the orange restrict level.

As well, marinas and boating clubs in the grey zone will be allowed to operate clubhouses or any restaurant, bar and other food or drink establishment for outdoor dining as of Monday, with capacity limits in place. 

Capacity limits for weddings, funerals, and other religious services held outdoors in all levels of the province’s colour-coded framework are also being adjusted to allow for an unlimited number of guests, so long as they can maintain two metres of physical distance, starting Monday. 

Premier Ford defends loosening restrictions as case numbers rise

On Friday, Premier Doug Ford was asked if his government was sending mixed messaging by loosening more public health restrictions as case numbers across the province climb. While he disagreed with the suggestion, he urged residents to take caution as the province slowly begins to reopen.

“We should all be on high alert. Absolutely high alert. But, you know, I'm going to be frank, people are tired. I'm telling you they're tired, they're exhausted out there, they need a little bit of fresh air, but please do so very carefully, that's all we're asking,” he said.

Ontario reported 2,169 new COVID-19 infections on Friday, the second consecutive day in which the province has logged more than 2,100 infections.

Case numbers have not been that high since the end of January. The seven-day average for number of cases report in Ontario stands at 1,855. A week ago today, that number was 1,480.

Earlier this month Ontario’s top doctor joined a chorus of health care experts in declaring that Ontario is in the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, largely driven by the spread of variants of concern.

The province’s “emergency brake” system has been adjusted to allow the government to impose the public health measures found in the previously lifted province-wide shutdown.

This means that if a region reports a “rapid acceleration” in COVID-19 cases, or if its health system is at risk of becoming overwhelmed, all non-essential businesses can be shuttered by the province’s top doctor in consultation with local medical officers of health.