Ontario on Monday announced a province-wide shut down because of the second wave of COVID-19 in Canada’s most populous province.
The lockdown will be put in place for southern Ontario from December 26 until January 23 but will lift for northern Ontario on January 9. Health officials criticized the delay, with the top one infectious disease doctor saying it was ridiculous to wait until the day after Christmas to shut down.
Ontario has had seven straight days of more than 2,000 cases a day. Modelling shows that could more than double in January. Health officials earlier said a four-to-six-week hard lockdown could significantly stop the spread of COVID-19.
Toronto, Canada’s largest city had already closed restaurants for indoor dining but schools remained open. All high schools in Ontario will not be closed for in-person learning until 25th January. Elementary schools will be closed until January 11.
After COVID-19 cases surged in the spring, Canada flattened the epidemic curve with a lockdown. But as in other countries, COVID-19 fatigue set in, restrictions were relaxed and a second wave was unleashed.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said, “We have flatted the curve before and we can do it again.” Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health, said Ontario is in a very challenging and precarious situation. Yaffe said, “There are outbreaks anywhere people congregate.”
Ontario Premier Dough Ford said the delay until December 26 will allow businesses outside the current lockdown zones to get ready for it. He said it allows restaurants a chance to sell off some of their inventory.
Ford said, “I am not comprising anything. I have to be fair to these businesses who have massive inventory”. Dr. Andrew Morris, a professor of infectious disease at the University of Toronto and the medical director of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at Sinai-University Health Network, said Ford is prioritizing the economy over health by delaying.
The Ontario Hospital Association said in a statement that it was “surprised and disappointed” the lockdown won’t happen for another five days. The association’s president, Anthony Dale, said in a statement that, “People across this province; need clear public health communication, and the December 26th implementation; date sends a confusing message about what; they should and shouldn’t do at this crucial moment. We are already hearing from hospitals and health system leaders; who are shocked that the restrictions will not come into effect until after Christmas.”
Dr. Naveed Mohammad, CEO of the William Osler Health System; that operates hospitals in a Toronto suburb, said people need to act as if the lockdown has already started.