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Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce

Daily Update: February 19th, 2021

Niagara to remain in Grey-Lockdown until at least March 1st

Niagara’s current status in the modified Grey-Lockdown zone will remain in place until at least March 1st. The significant change from the 2020 framework is that retailers may now open, subject to provincial restrictions and the local Section 22 order (PDF link) that will take effect on Monday. Restaurants, bars, and other food and drink establishments must remain closed for dine-in service, indoor and outdoor; when the regional status changes, they will be bound by another local Section 22 order (PDF link) that also takes effect on Monday.

Niagara health issued a statement that “Ontario, including Niagara, is at a precarious point in the pandemic. Average cases in Niagara, while declining, remain almost as high as at the worst of the first wave. Many experts are warning that a third wave might arrive very soon. To save lives and give Niagara’s economy a sustained opportunity to recover, it is imperative that the reopening be carefully managed.”

The GNCC has reached out to Niagara Public Health to ask:

Ontario launches education campaign to help workplaces reopen safely

The Ontario government is launching new health and safety education campaigns, with a particular focus on helping small businesses across the province reopen safely. The on-the-ground assistance includes a comprehensive suite of resources business owners can access at no cost to ensure they are helping prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.

Starting next week, provincial offences officers will be visiting businesses in regions opening into grey, red and orange zones, such as the regions of Wellington-Dufferin Guelph, Durham and Eastern Ontario.

The full suite of government educational supports available includes:

  • Provincial Employment Standards Call Centre ( and Occupational Health and Safety Contact Centre ( to answer small business health and safety questions.

For more information on these tools, visit

Stay-at-Home Order extended in Toronto and Peel public health regions along with North Bay-Parry Sound

The Ontario government is maintaining the shutdown, the Stay-at-Home order and all existing public health and workplace safety measures for an additional two weeks in the Toronto and Peel Public Health Regions, along with the North Bay-Parry Sound District. The York Public Health Region will transition out of the shutdown and into the revised and strengthened COVID-19 Response Framework: Keeping Ontario Safe and Open.

Government of Canada proposes increase to number of weeks for recovery benefits and EI regular benefits

The Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough, today announced the Government of Canada’s intent to introduce regulatory and legislative amendments to increase the number of weeks of benefits available for the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB), the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) and Employment Insurance (EI) regular benefits.

The proposed changes would:

  • increase the number of weeks available under the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) by 12 weeks extending the maximum duration of the benefits through regulation from 26 weeks to up to 38 weeks;
  • increase the number of weeks available under the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) through regulation from the current 2 weeks to 4 weeks; and
  • increase the number of weeks of EI regular benefits available by up to 24 weeks to a maximum of 50 weeks through legislation, for claims that are made between September 27, 2020 and September 25, 2021.

To ensure employees in the federally regulated private sector can access the proposed additional weeks of CRCB and CRSB without the risk of losing their jobs, the maximum length of the leave related to COVID-19 under the Canada Labour Code would also be extended.

Provincial and territorial governments will determine whether they need to amend their job-protected leaves in order to facilitate employees’ access to the proposed additional weeks of CRSB and CRCB benefits.

Subject to the legislation receiving Royal Assent, in addition, self-employed workers who have opted in to the EI program to access special benefits would be able to use a 2020 earnings threshold of $5,000, compared to the previous threshold of $7,555. This change would be retroactive to claims established as of January 3, 2021 and would apply until September 25, 2021.

Retail sales post largest decline since April

Retail sales decrease in December

The COVID-19 pandemic led consumers to change their shopping habits and retailers to change their business practices, and this impacted retail sales. Both faced a rapidly changing retail environment as protective measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 resulted in the temporary closure of stores deemed non-essential, along with other physical distancing measures. This in turn changed the way consumers bought goods, as well as how they shopped.

Retail sales posted their largest decline since the low of April driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, decreasing 3.4% to $53.4 billion in December. Sales were down in 9 out of 11 subsectors, representing 83.6% of retail sales.

Core retail sales—which exclude sales by gasoline stations and motor vehicle and parts dealers—also posted their slowest growth since April, falling 4.6% in December on lower sales at general merchandise stores and clothing and clothing accessories stores, as well as sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores.

In volume terms, retail sales fell 3.6% in December.

On a quarterly basis, retail sales were up 1.2% in the fourth quarter compared with the third quarter of 2020, while retail sales in volume terms increased 0.8%.

On an unadjusted basis, retail e-commerce sales reached a record high in December, increasing by over two-thirds (+69.3%) year over year to $4.7 billion in December. In comparison, total unadjusted retail sales increased 5.9% on a year-over-year basis in December. E-commerce accounted for 7.8% of total retail trade in December—the largest share since May. The rise in e-commerce sales coincided with an uptick in the number of retailers reporting shutdowns in December.

With the resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Canada, provincial governments began to reintroduce physical distancing measures, which directly affected the retail sector. Based on respondent feedback, approximately 15% of retailers were closed during December. The average length of the shutdown was two business days. Despite these challenging times, most respondents reported their sales figures, and Statistics Canada thanks them for their continued collaboration.

Reading recommendations

Why are the variants more transmissible? Your COVID-19 questions answered

Amina Zafar, CBC News

Viruses mutate all the time. Many of the mutations are inconsequential, virologists say.

What sets the coronavirus “variants of concern” such as those first identified in the U.K., South Africa and Brazil apart is they spread more easily, may cause more severe illness, or current vaccines may be less effective against them, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Fiona Brinkman co-leads data analytics for the Canadian COVID-19 Genomics Network (CanCOGeN) that’s tracking the coronavirus. The experts use genome sequences of the virus to detect new variants and improve public health responses to the ones that pose a risk to public health.

What Does “Lockdown” Even Mean Anymore?

Jonah Brunet, The Walrus

In February 2021, in the midst of a year-old global pandemic, what is a lockdown? Yes, it’s “a state of isolation, containment, or restricted access,” but what does that mean, specifically, to the daily lives of those living under one? As part of its word-of-the-year announcement, Collins claimed the term “encapsulates the shared experience of billions of people” during COVID-19. For Wuhan’s lockdown, travel into and out of the city of at least 9 million was completely shut down. For Azerbaijan’s, residents of major cities had to receive permission to leave their homes via a government text-messaging system. In Ontario, a recent inspection blitz found that only 59 percent of big-box retailers, like Walmart, which have been allowed to remain open throughout the pandemic, were adhering to public health measures such as requiring everyone to wear masks and keep their distance. Over the holidays, thousands of flights left Canada, several carrying federal and provincial politicians. How much of the lockdown experience are we actually sharing and how much are we pretending to?

Niagara COVID status tracker

Niagara’s most up-to-date COVID statistics, measured against the targets for the various stages of the Ontario COVID-19 Response Framework, are presented below. This does not predict government policy, but is offered to give you an idea of where Niagara is situated and how likely a relaxation (or further restrictions) may be. These data are drawn daily from Niagara Region. The Grey-Lockdown level does not have its own metrics, but is triggered when the COVID-specific measurements in a Red-Control region have continued to deteriorate.

Note that the Provincewide Shutdown is not the same as the Grey-Lockdown level listed in the Ontario COVID-19 Response Framework, which has been suspended for the duration of the shutdown. Additional restrictions for businesses apply during the Shutdown. Businesses should not use the Response Framework as a guide during this time, but should instead refer to the Shutdown guidelines.

 December 18December 25January 1January 8January 15January 22January 29
Reproductive number1.
New cases per 100,000101.2267.3469.8575.8507.1295.5250.6
New cases per day (not including outbreaks)60.7178.7311.7376.9325.4182.7145.7
Percent of hospital beds occupied97%95.2%98.2%103.2%104.5%103.6%106%
Percent of intensive care beds occupied78.8%77.3%87.9%87.9%90.9%89.4%93.9%
Percentage of positive tests6.1%15.6%28.1%28.6%26.6%21.2%16.2%


  • Weekly Incidence Rate: the number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people per week
  • Percent Positivity: the number of positive COVID-19 tests as a percentage of all COVID-19 tests performed
  • Rt: the reproductive rate, or the number of people infected by each case of the virus

Information on government grants, resources, and programs, policies, forms, and posters for download and use, are available here.The GNCC is here to support you. Contact us with any questions you have.
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