Premier Doug Ford Covid-19 lockdown

Ontario pulls emergency brake as province enters lockdown

Premier Doug Ford announced a provincewide lockdown today, April 1, as new cases of COVID-19 and a spike in ICU admissions put Ontario’s health care system near capacity. The emergency brake will come into effect on April 3 at midnight and will last at least four weeks.

Toronto and area residents will be used to lockdowns at this point. The only new adjustments will be the end of the short-lived outdoor patio dining.

“We are facing a serious situation and drastic measures are required to contain the rapid spread of the virus, especially the new variants of concern,” said Premier Ford. “I know pulling the emergency brake will be difficult on many people across the province, but we must try and prevent more people from getting infected and overwhelming our hospitals. Our vaccine rollout is steadily increasing, and I encourage everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated. That is our best protection against this deadly virus.”

Ontario’s latest modelling shows that from March 26 to 28, 2021, provincial case rates have increased by 7.7 per cent to 101.1 cases per 100,000 people. In addition, according to information provided by the province, “COVID-19 related ICU admissions are already over the peak of wave two and hospitals in regional hotspots will need to further ramp down scheduled surgeries. COVID-19 related ICU admissions are projected to exceed 650 beds in a few weeks.”

Not surprisingly, there were many opinions put forth on social media, including many medical professionals who think the new lockdown measures do not go far enough.

New measures include the following:

• Prohibiting indoor organized public events and social gatherings and limiting the capacity for outdoor organized public events or social gatherings to a 5-person maximum, except for gatherings with members of the same household (the people you live with) or gatherings of members of one household and one other person from another household who lives alone

• Restricting in-person shopping in all retail settings, including a 50 per cent capacity limit for supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, indoor farmers’ markets, other stores that primarily sell food and pharmacies, and 25 per cent for all other retail including big box stores, along with other public health and workplace safety measures

• Prohibiting personal care services

• Prohibiting indoor and outdoor dining. Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments will be permitted to operate by takeout, drive-through, and delivery only

• Prohibiting the use of facilities for indoor or outdoor sports and recreational fitness (e.g., gyms) with very limited exceptions

• Requiring day camps to close

• Limiting capacity at weddings, funerals, and religious services, rites or ceremonies to 15 per cent occupancy per room indoors, and to the number of individuals that can maintain two metres of physical distance outdoors. This does not include social gatherings associated with these services such as receptions, which are not permitted indoors and are limited to five people outdoors.

“Ontario, like many other provinces and jurisdictions around the world, is in the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and immediate action is required to help turn the tide,” said Health Minister Christine Elliott. “Implementing a provincewide emergency brake was not an easy decision to make and is not one we take lightly. As we continue to vaccinate more Ontarians, the end is in sight, but right now these necessary measures will help to stop the spread of variants in our communities, protect capacity in our health care system, and save lives.”

Ford also announced that schools and child care settings will remain open during the lockdown with strict safety measures in place, even though hundreds of new school cases are announced each day. In addition, the spring break will continue as planned for the week of April 12.

“In the last few weeks a significant increase in COVID-19 cases and variants of concern has been observed across Ontario which has put considerable strain on our public health and health care systems,” said Dr. David Williams, chief medical officer of health. “Implementing a provincewide shutdown is needed to bring the third wave of this pandemic under control so that we can save lives, keep our education system open and allow our vaccination program to take hold.”

The lockdown news comes as Ontario reported 2,557 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, for a total of 352,460. There are a total of 20,875 active cases, an increase of 720. Sadly, there are 23 new deaths.

Click here for more COVID-19 Ontario updates.

Article exclusive to TRNTO