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“This is a critical moment for our community’ Peel’s top public health doctor says

Peel’s top public health doctor says easing COVID-19 restrictions just days after schools reopen in the region will not allow public health officials to properly assess what impact the resumption of in-person learning has had on community transmission of the novel coronavirus.

Earlier this week, the provincial government released its plan to transition all regions of Ontario back into its revised colour-coded reopening framework over the next few weeks.

Three regions in eastern Ontario were placed in the “green” zone of the province’s framework today, allowing restaurants, gyms, movie theatres, and many other businesses in those areas to reopen for the first time since the provincewide lockdown was introduced on Boxing Day.

The province said 28 more regions could be re-introduced into the framework next week and restrictions could be loosened in Toronto, Peel Region, and York Region by as early as Feb. 22.

But Dr. Lawrence Loh, the medical officer of health for the Region of Peel, expressed concerns Wednesday over easing public health restrictions so soon.

“This is a critical moment for our community in fighting COVID-19. Next week, students will return to in-person learning… I must be clear. Any further reopening that might be contemplated must be gradual to allow for appropriate assessment of trends, and to prevent case counts, hospitalizations and deaths from climbing again,” he told reporters at a news conference on Wednesday morning.

“The province has proposed that Peel could return to a revised reopening framework as early as Feb 22 and in entering that framework we could see the loosening of restrictions. That’s coming six days after school reopening, which is far too early to fully assess the impacts that school reopening will have on our community transmission patterns. That unfortunately is not gradual.”

While the number of new COVID-19 infections have been declining in Ontario in recent weeks, Loh cautioned that with the discovery of more transmissible variants in the province, cases could climb dramatically if a cautious approach is not taken.

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