The provincial government is set to unveil a new tiered system for COVID-19 restrictions that will give municipalities and public health units guidelines for when to implement lockdows and closures.

CTV News Toronto has learned that Premier Doug Ford’s government will consider the new system on Monday and is expected to reveal it on Tuesday.

Government sources say the new system will allow regions to gradually increase or decrease restrictions as needed and would replace the current modified Stage 2 restrictions.

According to the sources, each tier would carry a more stringent set of measures ranging from no restrictions to a full lockdown.

Each stage would also come with a set of criteria, providing health units and business owners with more predictability when it comes to tighter or looser restrictions.

The news comes as Ford said that his cabinet will be meeting on Monday to review a proposal from health officials on how to ease restrictions in Ontario’s COVID-19 hot spots.

The initial 28-day period for the modified Stage 2 restrictions will come to an end at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday in Toronto, Peel and Ottawa and nine days later in York Region.

Last week, Ford said that he wants to see a plan from health officials on how to “ease restrictions” in such a way that businesses will be able to “safely” reopen once the 28-day period is up but on Monday he refused to provide any extra details, other than confirming that cabinet will be meeting today to consider a proposal from Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams.

“Lets see what the health table brings to us today and hopefully we will have some better news over the next few days,” he said.

Ford has faced some criticism from business owners who have said that the number of outbreaks associated with gyms and bars and restaurants were not significant enough to warrant their closure for nearly a month but on Monday he defended the decision, noting that it may have helped the province avoid a much worse fate.

“It is amazing how in the whole world, including certain areas of Canada and the U.S., people are saying you have to close the restaurants and the gyms. Maybe they are all wrong and maybe you are the only person that is right, I am not too sure. But I will always take the advice of the docs,” he said in response to one reporter question. “I would rather err on the side of caution than just go hog wild and let everything open up.”

Tory expects some restrictions to continue

Ford’s comments on Monday afternoon come as the mayors from the 11 largest municipalities in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area issue a statement extending their support for the province’s plan “to develop a framework which can take us forward and find ways to open doors safely.”

In the statement, the mayors said that they all want the businesses currently closed due to the modified Stage 2 restrictions to “be able to reopen safely and to remain open.

Speaking with CP24 earlier in the day, Toronto Mayor John Tory expressed a similar sentiment but said that he expects there will be restrictions on some businesses on a “continuing basis” even if the Ford government decides not to extend the modified Stage 2 closures in Toronto past Friday.

“I think the point is that there will be restrictions on a continuing basis of some kind or another. One of the scenarios that I guess would be on the table among the range you can pick from is to say ‘Lets just open everything up and hope for the best’ but I think we have seen that tried elsewhere and it doesn’t work so well,” he said. “I think that what you are going to find is that there will be some kind of plan brought forward that will represent, depending on local circumstances and depending on what is going on on any given day, a range of restrictions that could be imposed on different kinds of businesses and behaviour.”

The Ford government moved Toronto, Peel and Ottawa into a modified version of Stage 2 back on Oct. 10, prohibiting bars and restaurants from serving customers indoors and ordering a range of other businesses, including gyms, casinos and movie theatres, to close indefinitely.

At the time the number of new cases of COVID-19 were doubling every 10 to 12 days.

Since then the rate of growth has slowed but modelling released last week still indicated that Ontario will see 800 to 1,200 new infections each day for most of November.

In defending his decision to ask for a plan to reduce restrictions, Ford has said that “we don’t know how long this virus will be with us” and has suggested that widespread business closures “can’t go on indefinitely.”

That said a number of epidemiologists and public health experts have said that the modified Stage 2 restrictions are just starting to produce results in hard-hit regions like Toronto.

“It is hard to claim victory and pat everybody on the back and say job well done when you are still getting 800 to 1,000 new cases a day but it is important to note that there actually are signs that things are starting to work. I just think it is going to take a little bit longer if we actually want to see a decline in cases,” Infectious Diseases Expert Dr. Issac Bogoch told CP24 on Monday morning.

In his interview with CP24 on Monday, Tory said that if Toronto is allowed to move back to Stage 3 he could envision new stricter rules around the distance between tables at restaurants and the number of people allowed to sit together.

He said that there could also be a prohibition on group activities at gyms, something Toronto Public Health had already called on the province to do prior to the introduction of the modified Stage 2 restrictions.

“You can see it in other cities in the world, all of which pretty much have some kind of restrictions on these sort of things, whether it be hours of business, distances or who can sit where and that sort of thing,” he said.