Ontario reports over 6,000 COVID-19 cases over two days as 'shutdown' takes effect

·4 min read

Ontario's daily COVID-19 case count surged back up over the 3,000 mark on Saturday, hours after a new provincewide "shutdown" took effect in a move meant to bring soaring infection rates back under control.

The measures, introduced to combat what Premier Doug Ford called an "alarming" recent spike in COVID-19 infections and intended to last for at least four weeks, sounded economic alarm bells for some industry groups who say their sectors cannot withstand additional closures and financial losses.

The provincewide "shutdown" came as a particular blow to salon operators in long-standing hot spots that were within weeks of reopening their doors to customers again, according to a spokeswoman with the Beauty United Council of Ontario.

"Everybody's very frustrated and angry," said council spokeswoman Annette Palumbo. "The (reopening) should not have been promised if the province was going to have a lockdown, which would have saved them time and trouble of getting their clients, calling them all, booking their appointments, and then before they're even finished they have to call them to unbook them again. It's a lot of man-hours and a lot of work, and it cost them a lot of money."

Palumbo noted that while personal services must close their doors, alongside gyms and restaurants previously cleared for in-person dining, most retailers can continue welcoming customers under the province's latest measures.

She said the latest shutdown stands to further erode her struggling industry, saying stylists and other beauty workers can't hold on much longer.

"They're single parents, some of them," she said. "Some of them have had to give up their living quarters. I have stories of women, five of them living in a one-bedroom. They can't afford to live in Toronto and they're waiting... These girls cannot live like that."

Ontario logged 3,009 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday and 3,089 cases a day earlier, when data sharing was paused for the Good Friday holiday.

The province also reported 39 new virus-related deaths over the same two-day stretch.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said Toronto and Peel Region remain the most active zones for the virus, with Hamilton and Ottawa also seeing higher local case loads.

The latest round of measures, a new tier on the pandemic response plan called a "shutdown," stop short of the "stay-at-home" order imposed during another wave of infections in January.

This time both essential and non-essential retailers are allowed to remain open, with respective capacity limits of 50 and 25 per cent in place.

Schools are slated to reopen after the end of this week's postponed spring break, which concludes on April 9.

Classrooms were shuttered throughout the province after the winter break in January, reopening gradually based on the local prevalence of COVID-19.

But the government has said it doesn't want to take that step again, calling it disastrous for children's mental health.

The new measures affect personal grooming services and gyms, which must close their doors weeks after being cleared for a limited reopening in some regions, and restaurants which must now suspend all in-person dining for the next 28 days.

The government is asking Ontarians to limit trips outside the home to necessities such as food, medication and other essential services.

Other politicians spoke up in support of their now-shuttered local eateries, which are limited to providing only pickup, drive-through and delivery service.

"Many of our local restaurants ordered and purchased food in anticipation of patio service starting this week," Oakville Mayor Rob Burton wrote on Twitter. "... If you can, please order take out or delivery this weekend from a local restaurant."

There were 796 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Ontario as of Saturday, with 451 patients in intensive care and 261 on a ventilator.

The province said 147,749 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered since Thursday's report.

A total of 2,424,063 vaccine doses have been given in the province so far.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 3, 2021.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Denise Paglinawan, The Canadian Press