Dunlop defends province's handling of vaccine rollout

·3 min read

Simcoe North MPP Jill Dunlop the federal government's vaccine supply remains the main factor affecting the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

"If we had more vaccines, we would have them in people's arms," said Jill Dunlop. "We hit a record this week of 136,000 vaccinations in one day. It is rolling along. We've had more than 3.9 million doses of vaccines given out."

Addressing why the government didn't prioritize essential workers and teachers, she said, it wasn't up to the province to decide, but rather the health minister's COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force.

"We had to prioritize by age and then we had to do the healthcare sector as well," said Dunlop.

Now, she said, the focus is on the hotspots.

"Of 80% of the people that have it, 20% are in the (hotspot) regions," said Dunlop. "In an area like ours, I'm hearing people are still travelling. We saw it last year; we're seeing it this year. There's higher allocation to hotspots and mobile units going out to large manufacturers for people that can't leave their work so we can reach them.

"Teachers are on the phase two list right now, depending on the area," she added. "Again, it's all based on supply. If we had more supply across the province, we would be moving quickly."

However, Dunlop emphasized, it's all about supply.

"Supply coming in seems to change every day," she said. "If we had a steady supply always coming, we'd be doing that every single day."

Talking about the flip-flop in orders issued over last weekend, Dunlop said the government applied the emergency brake and put a stay-at-home order to reduce cases.

"As far as last weekend, with the playground, what's important is that when you drive by playgrounds you see parents standing there not wearing masks," she said. "It's a public health measure people need to remember. We want people to be able to get outside but when you stand in close proximity with members of other households groups, that's where the transmission happens as well."

Dunlop also said the province moved to close access to non-essential shopping at big box stores after strong feedback.

"We heard from the public about the inequity around large box stores compared to smaller ones, so we moved forward with that," she said. "Those stores were able to quickly block off those non-essential areas."

Dunlop also talked about the federal budget and what she views as its shortcomings.

"The budget was released this Monday, and we were disappointed by some of the things that we had expected to see in the budget," she said. "That includes stricter border measures, more vaccine supplies and improvements to the federal sick-leave program."

However, Dunlop said the move to close flights from India for 30 days was a good move.

"That's one positive step forward, but there are still loopholes," she said. "Because there are still connecting flights and people coming in. I've heard from people at hotels that people are coming in with counterfeit documents.

"Luckily, the testing being done at the airport is stopping them from entering the community (because) the variants are crazy right now. We need to do everything we can to make sure we're protecting people."

As for the land borders, Dunlop noted there are now restrictions in place with Manitoba and Quebec.

"I think we're all looking to ensure people in our provinces are kept safe," she said. "It is another consideration with people coming across the land border from the U.S. What's the testing situation in places there?

" As far as these people coming in, are they coming home and doing the two-week quarantine as they should? As far as I know, there's nothing in place at this time."

Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com