Ottawa moving to red zone on Friday

Ottawa is moving to the red zone on the province's COVID-19 framework on Friday, at 12:01 a.m. ET, health officials announced Thursday morning. 

New restrictions limit gatherings, close theatres

A pair out for a walk in Ottawa at sunset last month. Ottawa's time under orange rules has come to an end for now as the city is officially moving to red on Friday. (Ian Black/CBC)

Ottawa is moving to the red zone on the province's COVID-19 framework on Friday, at 12:01 a.m. ET, health officials announced Thursday morning. 

According to the provincial government, the decision was made at the request of Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health. 

"Our government is taking immediate action to contain COVID-19 and protect individuals, families and workers by enhancing public health measures in Ottawa," said Christine Elliott, deputy premier and minister of health, in a news release. 

Many of the city's numbers to watch have trended into red-zone territory in recent days, and Etches had said Tuesday the change was likely coming

The decision to go to red came as Ontario reported 1,553 new COVID-19 cases and 15 new deaths.

Red brings with it some of the strictest restrictions detailed on the province's pandemic scale, second only to grey lockdown. 

Going red means avoiding social gatherings, only leaving home for essential reasons and not having inside visitors, on top of existing health advice including masking, distancing and staying home when sick.

All gatherings, whether organized or private, will be capped at five people inside and 25 outside. The exception is religious services, which can be larger.

Restaurants will still offer indoor dining, but it will be limited to 10 people at a time instead of the 50 allowed under orange. Up to four people can still sit together and rules around opening hours also don't change.

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Mayor Jim Watson announced Thursday morning that he and Coun.Tim Tierney have asked staff to fast-track the opening of patio season, paving the way for decks set up on sidewalks to open early. 

"Any restaurant [or] business that had a patio last summer or this winter can set up starting today using the same plan," the mayor said on social media. 

Gyms are also limited to 10 people per class and in areas with exercise equipment.

Team sports must not be practised or played except for training, so games and scrimmages are banned.

Theatres must close, so live entertainment will be either virtual or in a drive-in format. Karaoke will be banned again.

There will be capacity limits of 50 per cent for most retail shops, but they can stay open. Rules for personal-care services don't change.

According to the city, it will continue to offer many recreational services under the new restrictions, albeit with reduced capacity. 

People dine in at a restaurant in Ottawa's ByWard Market on March 1. Indoor dining is allowed under every colour of the province's COVID-19 response framework except for grey. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Outdoor rinks will continue to operate, weather permitting, but only by reservation and with a maximum capacity of 25 skaters. 

The city will also continue its by-appointment service counters for those in need of in-person assistance during the pandemic. 

Ottawa has never been red under this version of Ontario's scale: For most of November and December, it was in orange, then it went into the provincial shutdown during the Christmas holidays and emerged back into orange about a month ago.

Before early November, it was in "modified Stage 2," which is roughly what grey-zone rules are now.