Ontario releases new colour-coded, tiered COVID-19 response system

New Ontario classification system New Ontario classification system announced by Ford government to manage COVID-19

The Ontario government has developed a new colour-coded classification system on how it will deploy shutdowns to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The new framework introduced today is a new tiered system for when to impose lockdowns and closures. It will be used to classify each of the province’s 34 public health units using one of five categories based off their current COVID-19 trends.

The system will be used to allow Ontario regions to gradually increase or decrease restrictions as COVID-19 cases rise and fall.

There are five categories: Prevent, protect, restrict, control, and lockdown. 

Under the new classification system, which goes into effect Nov. 7, Niagara Region is in green or “Prevent”.

New COVID-19 framework in Ontario
New COVID-19 framework in Ontario

“It’s clear COVID-19 will be with us for a while, which is why we are putting in place a framework that will protect the health and safety of individuals and families while avoiding broader closures across the province,” said Ontario Premier Doug Ford.

The new colour coded framework will serve as an early warning system that will allow the province to scale up and scale back public health restrictions on a regional or community basis in response to surges and waves of COVID-19.

Ottawa, Peel and York Region which has all seen significant infection rates in recent weeks will be placed into orange or “Restrict”. Toronto Mayor John Tory has asked for more time and so Toronto will move into “Restrict” or orange on Nov 14.

This framework classifies public health unit regions into five levels: Green-Prevent, Yellow-Protect, Orange-Restrict, Red-Control, and Lockdown being a measure of last and urgent resort. Each level has specific public health and workplace safety measures.

The province has also made changes to Ontario’s COVID-19 information website: Ontario.ca/coronavirus to better help communities access important information in a timely manner. Information about the spread of the virus and health system capacity including local cases in public health unit regions, the total number of cases, resolved cases, deaths, and tests completed and how many are positive will be available on the website.

The government also announced that it will be making $300 million available to businesses currently in modified Stage 2 and in areas categorized as Control and Lockdown, going forward. More information on this can be found here.

Public health regions will transition into this classification framework starting Nov. 7. Based on data from the week of Oct. 26, public health units have been classified into one of the following levels:  


  • No public health unit regions


  • No public health unit regions


  • Eastern Ontario Health Unit;
  • Ottawa Public Health;
  • Peel Public Health;
  • Toronto Public Health (may be delayed in entering Orange-Restrict level until November 14, 2020); and
  • York Region Public Health.


  • Brant County Health Unit;
  • City of Hamilton Public Health Services;
  • Durham Region Health Department; and
  • Halton Region Public Health.


  • Algoma Public Health;
  • Chatham-Kent Public Health;
  • Grey Bruce Health Unit;
  • Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health;
  • Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit;
  • Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit;
  • Hastings Prince Edward Public Health;
  • Huron Perth Public Health;
  • Lambton Public Health;
  • Leeds, Grenville & Lanark District Health Unit;
  • Middlesex-London Health Unit;
  • Niagara Region Public Health;
  • North Bay Parry Sound District;
  • Northwestern Health Unit;
  • Peterborough Public Health;
  • Porcupine Health Unit;
  • Public Health Sudbury & Districts;
  • Region of Waterloo Public Health and Emergency Services;
  • Renfrew County and District Health Unit;
  • Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit;
  • Southwestern Public Health;
  • Thunder Bay District Health Unit;
  • Timiskaming Health Unit;
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health; and
  • Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.

The classification system will be reviewed again based on updated data and sent for approval by the Cabinet on Nov. 6. The government will continue to assess the impact of restrictions applied to the public health unit regions for 28 days.

More info:

Original news release
Press conference video
What to expect with the new 2020 budget