TORONTO -- Ontario is forcing tougher COVID-19 restrictions on seven parts of province, which includes putting York Region and Windsor-Essex into lockdown.

Effective Dec.14, York Region and Windsor-Essex will be placed in the grey category of the government's tiered framework system, forcing almost all non-essential businesses to close.

London-Middlesex, Simcoe Muskoka and Wellington, Dufferin and Guelph will be placed into the red zone.

Eastern Ontario Health Unit will move into the orange level, while Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District move into the yellow zone.

"Moving a region into Grey-Lockdown is not an easy decision, but it is one we needed to make in order to help stop the spread of the virus and safeguard the key services we rely on," Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a statement released on Friday.

The lockdown for York Region and Windsor-Essex comes as both places report an increase in COVID-19 cases. 

Windsor-Essex and York Region, which were operating in the red zone, reported new case numbers in the triple digits on Friday.

York Region has reported an average of 193 new COVID-19 cases per day over the past week, while its weekly incidence rate is per 100,000 people is 123.7.

Windsor-Essex is reporting 79.8 new COVID-19 cases per day over the past week. On Thursday, the region forced all schools to switch to online learing for the week leading into the holiday break.

Toronto and Peel Region will also remain lockdown. Officials have said that regions will remain in their zone for a minimum of 28 days.  

Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti said he respected the provincial decision to impose a lockdown, but noted he would be advocating for help directed at small businesses that will be forced to close.

He also urged people to follow public health rules.

"This move by the province of Ontario does not let us off the hook," he said. "Almost 50 per cent of cases in York Region are the result of close contact (family, friends and work colleagues) transmission."

Meanwhile, University Health Network President and CEO Dr. Kevin Smith is calling for further lockdowns to be implemented in the province. 

He took to Twitter on Friday afternoon, writing that it's "time to lockdown from Oshawa to Niagara, north to Barrie and west to London."

"Truly wish I didn't have to send this message," he wrote. "Health-care workers can't sustain these demands and stresses."

What you need to know if your region is going into lockdown

Public events and social gatherings

All indoor organized public events and social gatherings are prohibited, with the exception of gatherings with members of the same household.

Outdoor gatherings have been restricted to 10 people, as long as physical distancing can be maintained.

Places of worship will be restricted to 10 people indoors and 10 people outdoors. This applies to religious services, weddings and funerals.

The restrictions would effectively mean worshipers in those regions would be prevented from praying inside and would instead have to travel to another region or attend services virtually.


Publicly-funded schools in Ontario and child-care centres will remain open under the lockdown, however post-secondary institutions will be open for virtual instruction only.

There will be exemptions for clinical training and trades, where in-person instruction is required.

Restaurants, bars and clubs

Indoor and outdoor service is prohibited at food establishments in lockdown regions. Takeout, drive through service, and delivery is permitted. This includes the sale of alcohol.

Retail and other businesses

Non-essential retail stores and some retail outlets have been restricted to curbside pick-up or delivery. This includes retail stores in malls.

Essential businesses such as grocery stores, convenience stores, hardware stores, supply stores, alcohol stores, pharmacies will remain open and be limited to 50 per cent capacity.

Gardening centres and motor vehicle establishments will be open by appointment only.

Customers are required to stand two metres away from each other while in line at any of the businesses listed above.

Personal care services, such as hair salons, are closed. Casinos, bingo halls and gaming establishments, cinemas (except drive-ins), and performing arts facilities are also closed.

Sports and fitness centres

All indoor sports facilities and fitness centres will close, including indoor courts, pools and rinks. Outdoor sports and fitness classes will be limited to 10 people.

Indoor sports, including training, has been prohibited.

Community centres and other multi-purpose facilities will be allowed to open for certain activities such as child care.

Meeting spaces

All meeting spaces and event spaces will be closed with the exceptions of court services, government services, and mental health and addiction support services (with a maximum of 10 people).

With files from The Canadian Press.