Ontario will be entering a province-wide lockdown this week.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced in a conference on Monday that the province will be entering the lockdown as of 12:01 am on December 26.
The province said that the current COVID-19 Response Framework will be paused when the shutdown comes into effect.
“The impacts of these time-limited measures will be evaluated throughout the 14 days in Northern Ontario and 28 days in Southern Ontario to determine if it is safe to lift any restrictions or if they need to be extended,” states the province.
This comes after Monday’s 2,123 daily case numbers marked over a week of cases over 2,000 despite major hotspot regions, Toronto, Peel, Windsor-Essex, and York Region being under Grey-Lockdown level procedures for 28 days.
Most recently, Hamilton was also placed under lockdown as of December 21, to be reassessed on January 4, 2021.
Ford, joined by Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health, and Dr. Naveed Mohammad, President and CEO, William Osler Health System announced the new lockdown restrictions.
“The number of daily cases continue to rise, putting our hospitals and long-term care homes at risk,” said Premier Ford. “We need to stop the spread of this deadly virus. That’s why, on the advice of Dr. Williams and other health experts, we are taking the difficult but necessary decision to shut down the province and ask people to stay home. Nothing is more important right now than the health and safety of all Ontarians.”
COVID-19 modelling data released on Monday projected that a four to six-week lockdown beginning immediately would be in the best interest of all public health units, particularly in regions disproportionately affected by the virus, like Peel region.
When asked why, despite modelling data recommending an immediate lockdown in order to curb cases most effectively, the lockdown will be in effect in five days, Ford said the government is trying to give regions who have not experienced a lock down time to prepare.
“I’m not compromising anything but the vast majority of hot spots are already in the grey zone,” said Ford. “I have to be fair to these businesses who have massive inventories who need to hunker down.”
According to the province, new measures within the province-wide shutdown include:
- Restricting indoor organized public events and social gatherings, except with members of the same household (the people you live with). Individuals who live alone may consider having exclusive close contact with one other household.
- Prohibiting in-person shopping in most retail settings – curbside pickup and delivery can continue. Discount and big-box retailers selling groceries will be limited to 25 percent capacity for in-store shopping. Supermarkets, grocery stores and similar stores that primarily sell food, as well as pharmacies, will continue to operate at 50 percent capacity for in-store shopping.
- Restricting indoor access to shopping malls – patrons may only go to a designated indoor pickup area (by appointment only), essential retail stores that are permitted to be open (e.g. pharmacy, grocery store), or, subject to physical distancing and face-covering requirements, to the food court for takeout purchases. Shopping malls may also establish outdoor designated pickup areas.
- Prohibiting indoor and outdoor dining. Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments will be permitted to operate by take-out, drive-through, and delivery only.
Although health officials continue to emphasize that transmission within schools remain low, all public and private elementary and secondary schools will convert to teacher-led remote learning when students return from winter break on January 4, 2021.
Both elementary and secondary schools in The District of Algoma Health Unit, North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit, Northwestern Health Unit, Porcupine Health Unit, Sudbury and District Health Unit, Thunder Bay District Health Unit, and Timiskaming Health Unit will resume in-person schooling on January 11, 2021.
All other elementary schools in unnamed public health units will return to in-person learning on January 11, 2021, with secondary schools learning remotely until January 25, 2021, and return to in-person thereafter.
Child care centres, authorized recreational, skill-building programs, and home-based child care services will remain open. Before and after school programs will be closed.
Currently, 915 COVID-19 patients are receiving acute care, with 265 in the ICU. Based on the modelling data, increasing cases will require more than 300 people in need of intensive care within the next 10 days.
“This was not an easy decision before the holidays, but we have reached a tipping point,” said Minister Elliott.
“We continue to see sharp increases in hospitalizations and occupancy in intensive care units is reaching concerning levels. Urgent action must be taken to prevent our health care system from becoming overwhelmed. By implementing a Provincewide Shutdown, we can work to stop the virus in its tracks, safeguard hospital capacity, and save lives.”
The government also announced new protocols for schools and the New Ontario Small Business Support Grant that will provide $10,000, up to $20,000 in funding.
“Ontario’s business owners have shown remarkable resolve and ingenuity throughout the pandemic,” said Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance.
“The new Ontario Small Business Support Grant will provide significant financial support to eligible small business owners in addition to the other supports made available to our small business community.”
In a news release last week, the Ontario Hospital Association called for a four-week lockdown and enhanced lockdown measures in regions within the Grey-Lockdown level, amid daily cases surpassing 2,000.