Another province-wide lockdown has been confirmed.
“Thousands of lives are at stake right now,” said Premier Doug Ford at a press conference today (Dec. 21). “If we fail to take action right now the consequences could be catastrophic. It's a temporary but one time measure.”
Ford explained that the current exponential spread of the virus in the province has been hitting concerning levels, and precautions exercised so far have not helped.
“I want to start by giving you an honest assessment,” said Ford. “Despite the restrictions, we’ve seen a growing number of people travelling. Our hospitals are filling up more each day. There has been a 70 percent increase in hospital admissions and an 80 percent increase in ICU needs.”
On Dec. 26 at 12:01 a.m. the lockdown will take effect. When asked why the decision was made to wait despite advice that closing down sooner would prevent more cases.
“We want to give the same opportunities to businesses who haven't experienced a lockdown before," said Ford. “We don’t want them left with inventory and not having time to prepare. Get ready to hunker down.”
Another question was asked regarding the delay in shut down and concerns over people getting together during the holidays.
“The worst places are already in Lockdown,” said Ford.
He added that people should not have visitors over to their house, but that he has to be fair to businesses.
“I’m asking for the support of the people, to cooperate as they have,” Ford said.
One of the largest concerns Ford expressed was the number of individuals still travelling, noting many people are coming through Pearson Airport every day. With more people coming into the province's borders, it means Ontarians efforts 'are for naught'.
"Our borders are like a sieve, like a spaghetti drainer," explained Ford, adding that passengers arriving at Pearson need to be tested. “This is critical.”
Essential businesses will remain open at reduced capacities and other retailers will be allowed to continue curbside pickup. The lockdown will last for 14 days in northern Ontario and 28 in the south.
Ford spoke to communities in yellow or green areas, asking them to understand that the risk of inter-region spread is a real concern, with people travelling to lower tier levels for services they cannot obtain on their own.
“These are decisions that are extremely difficult, but are absolutely critical,” he said.
Quebec will also be shutting down, noting that while Quebec has done a great job mitigating spread, the risk of people flooding into Ottawa is high.
He added that while schools are shutting down, they are not part of the problem. Elementary level schools will be shut down until Jan. 11, while high schools will remain closed until Jan. 25.
Ford explained that the province is also revisiting support for communities, including up to $20,000 for small businesses.
Health minister Christine Elliott said that while there has been an investment of 2,000 or more beds in hospitals across the province, more needs to be done.
“Our hospital situation is a reflection of community spread,” said Elliott. “Urgent and Immediate action must be taken. Issuing a province-wide shut down was not an easy decision, but we have reached a tipping point.”
Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health (WDGPH) confirmed the number of COVID-19 cases within its boundaries is now at 2,149, an increase of 133 cases since the last update on Dec. 18.
As of Dec. 21, there are 315 active cases within WDGPH, including 152 in Guelph, 59 in Dufferin and 44 in Wellington County. There was 14 persons hospitalized due to COVID-19 in WDGPH.
Ford continued to stress the need to stay home, during the holidays and into the lockdown, and asked people to venture out as little as possible.
“Only leave the house when absolutely necessary,” said Ford. “As I’ve said before, tough times don’t last, but tough people do. The vaccines are on their way, there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
Tabitha Wells/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Alexandra Heck/The Orangeville Banner, Orangeville Banner