Hamilton will join four other Ontario regions in a COVID-19 lockdown next week.
After a meeting with health officials on Friday afternoon, Premier Doug Ford revealed the measure in response to a surge in coronavirus cases in recent weeks.
The city will move from the red-control level of the province’s COVID-19 response framework to grey-lockdown as of 12:01 a.m. Monday.
In a statement, the province said the decision was made after assessing trends in key public health indicators and the need for stronger public health measures.
Hamilton’s number of cases and hospitalizations have been trending upwards. The case rate increased by 25.8 per cent to 103.3 cases per 100,000 people and the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the region has more than doubled in the last two weeks.
The positivity rate is well above the province’s high alert threshold and is at 4.2 per cent.
Hamilton’s medical officer of health said the move into a lockdown was “largely due to people not following the advice” in terms of socializing.
She went on to say a burdened hospital system was also a significant reason for the downgrade to grey level.
“So right now, our hospitals are over capacity and are overwhelmed,” said Richardson.
“They have expressed their concern, as you’ve heard in previous days, and are continuing to have challenges as we go forward.”
Earlier in the week hospitals, doctors and nurses all reached out to the province to undertake stricter lockdowns in hard-hit regions.
One of the more vocal groups was the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA), which made a push on Thursday for a four-week lockdown in every public health unit with 40 or more COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people.
“The situation is extremely serious,” the association said in a statement.
“We are now in the holiday season and if members of the public choose to ignore public health measures and gather outside their households, the consequences risk overwhelming Ontario’s hospitals. Every health-care system has its breaking point.”
Two of Hamilton’s hospitals have outbreaks as of Friday, St.Peter’s hospital in one unit while the Juravinski has outbreaks in five units.
After the province’s announcement on Friday afternoon, Mayor Fred Eisenberger said he didn’t think the province had “many options left” other than proceed with the lockdown in Hamilton and in extending current measures in other regions.
“I would think that possibly on Monday we may be able to see some additional recommendations that they may come up with to help curb the spread of this virus. Even more throughout the province,’ Eisenberger said.
Toronto, Peel Region, York Region and Windsor-Essex County are the others already in the grey-lockdown zone.
On Thursday Eisenberger told Global News Radio 900 CHML’s Bill Kelly that the upcoming holidays in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) would be a “good opportunity to lock down” to contain the spread of this virus.
He stopped short of suggesting a provincewide lockdown.
“But certainly in this large Golden Horseshoe urbanized area, including Kitchener or Waterloo and other places, I think we need a collective lockdown to contain this virus.”
On Wednesday, Toronto Mayor John Tory said he and other nearby municipal leaders asked the province for tighter restrictions in the hopes of controlling the rising number of coronavirus cases that could surge after the holidays.
“I think we have to have something that is truly going to apply across the entire region, because I think people are finding it too easy to move back and forth,” said Tory.
Meanwhile, the chair of Halton Region and mayors from Burlington, Milton and Oakville issued a statement on Thursday night saying they were “not in support” of a GTHA-wide lockdown.
“We were not consulted nor were any of us a party to any discussions on the topic,” the mayors wrote.
They went on to say that based on advice from the region’s medical officer, the area “does not warrant a lockdown.”
“Our businesses have gone above and beyond to ensure their customers and employees are safe and will continue to do so.”
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