In response to rising coronavirus cases, the provincial government has announced a delay in resuming in-person classes at Ontario’s schools.
“Public health and other experts have expressed significant concerns that the current transmission trends, combined with the potentially high levels of mobility from social and consumer activity over the holiday period, could overwhelm health care and public health sector capacity in the new year,” officials said in an update Monday afternoon.
As part of a suite of measures aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19, including a provincewide lockdown under the province’s COVID-19 response framework, the Ontario government said all publicly funded schools will have online learning the week of Jan. 4.
Although elementary and secondary students in northern Ontario public health regions will be able to return to school on Jan. 11, for other parts of the province there will be a staggered return to schools.
Elementary schools in the southern regions will see a return of in-person learning on Jan. 11 while secondary school students won’t be allowed back into the classroom until Jan. 25.
Educators who aren’t able to “delivery quality remote teaching, instruction or support to students from home” will be allowed in school buildings as well as those who provide access to child care centres at schools.
Child care centres will be allowed to remain open during the shutdown. However, during the week of Jan. 4, before- and after-school programs are cancelled. Some parents might be eligible for emergency child care during the week.
New modelling projections released Monday morning show infections in the province continue to rise and “hard” lockdowns of four to six weeks could bring cases down to less than 1,000 a day.
Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of the province’s COVID-19 science advisory table, said anything less than a four-week lockdown will not work, based on the experience of other jurisdictions.
“Hard lockdown, a very stringent lockdown, with very strong communication, of four to six weeks can reduce case numbers in Ontario,” he said.
“The duration of lockdown is very important.”
— With files from The Canadian Press