Stricter restrictions will be in place across Ontario until at least January 9, as the province seeks to curb the rise in COVID-19 infections.
Canada’s most populous province is imposing stricter COVID-19 restrictions on Saturday in a bid to reduce the rise in infections, deaths and hospitalizations linked to the novel coronavirus.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced the “province-wide shutdown” earlier this week, saying the daily number of COVID-19 cases put the health system and people at risk. long-term care homes.
“We must stop the spread of this deadly virus. This is why … we are making 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, ”Ford said in a statement.
The restrictions, which come into effect at 12:01 am local time (05:01 GMT) on Saturday, include a ban on indoor gatherings between people from different households and a limit of 10 people outdoors, as well as limits on businesses. not essential. .
Big box stores that sell groceries can remain open, however, with a capacity limited to 25%, while pharmacies and grocery stores can also operate at 50% capacity.
The restrictions will be in place province-wide until January 9, but they will remain in effect in southern Ontario, including Ottawa and Toronto, until January 23. Toronto, Canada’s largest city, has already been subject to strict COVID-19 rules since the end of November. .
Ontario had a seven-day average of 2,306 new cases daily as of Thursday. On the same day, it recorded the highest single-day tally since the start of the pandemic, with 2,447 new infections. Forty-nine additional deaths linked to the virus have also been reported.
Some Ontario public health experts have criticized Ford, saying the premier acted too late and was doing too little to stem the spread of the virus, such as guaranteeing paid sick leave for workers who might get sick.
Provincial data shows that 27 percent of the 923 active COVID-19 outbreaks in Ontario are occurring in workplaces.
“What part of the ‘now’ and ‘the action’ Mr. Doesn’t Ford understand? ” Globe and Mail’s health columnist André Picard wrote earlier this week.
Picard criticized the prime minister for announcing the need for urgent action on December 21, but did not impose the new restrictions until five days later – and said the lockdown was not a lockdown at all.
“Half measures and deferred action, an approach Ontario has taken time and time again, will not work,” he wrote.
Dr Nadia Alam, a family doctor in Georgetown, Ont., A town about 60 km (37 miles) west of downtown Toronto, told Al Jazeera on Friday that hospitals are full and in need. struggling to manage a high number of COVID and non-COVID patients.
She said many nurses and other healthcare workers are working double shifts, as the network is stretched to its limits.
“We are running out of people. We’re out of space. The decisions [Ontarians] doing in their individual lives will make or defend our health system, ”she said.
Alam said the province-wide shutdown was necessary to try to limit people’s contact with others and the potential spread of the virus – and she urged people to adhere to the new, more stringent public health guidelines.
“If the lockdown doesn’t work, we’re in trouble. We already have the impression that we are in difficulty.