Ontario easing COVID-19 restrictions is ‘threatening people’s lives’: nurses’ association

Click to play video: 'Salons and barbershops in grey zones reopen April 12'
Salons and barbershops in grey zones reopen April 12
WATCH ABOVE: Personal care services in Ontario’s grey lockdown zones will get to reopen in April with a few restrictions. Shallima Maharaj reports. – Mar 26, 2021

An organization representing nurses in Ontario says the government’s loosening of restrictions is “threatening people’s lives” and has called for stronger measures to be put in place as the province faces a third wave of COVID-19.

The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) said in a statement Saturday that recent government decisions to loosen some dining restrictions, as well as allow personal care services to open, also threaten the province’s health-care system and in-person learning.

“The minister of health has said the next few weeks are critical and she is correct,” RNAO CEO Dr. Doris Grinspun said.

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“However, at the same time [Health] Minister [Christine] Elliott is warning Ontarians about the dangers variants of the virus pose, the government is issuing contradictory messages by relaxing public health measures designed to protect people’s health. That’s why we are urging Premier Ford to scale back reopening plans.”
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On Friday, the province announced that outdoor fitness classes would be able to resume for lockdown zones, with restrictions, beginning on Monday; as of April 12, personal care services will be allowed to open by appointment and at limited capacity.

The province also recently allowed outdoor dining at restaurants in lockdown zones and allowed those in red-control and orange-restrict levels to operate at up to 50 per cent of approved capacity (with a maximum of 50 people and 100 people, respectively) for indoor dining, with physical distancing.

Read more: Restaurants in Ontario regions with grey lockdown COVID-19 restrictions to be allowed outdoor dining

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The province also announced Friday it was making changes to its “emergency brake” measure, which allows it to swiftly tighten restrictions on a region.

The change will allow the province’s top doctor, in consultation with a local medical officer of health, to move a region into a “shutdown” with measures similar to those imposed in January, when most retailers closed and only essential services remained open.

“We need to act now to prevent this third wave from being more catastrophic than the second wave,” Grinspun said.

“We know with certainty that the virus variants spread much faster. We also fear it makes people far sicker and can result in much higher rates of death.”

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Grinspun said there also needs to be a focus on “redoubling the efforts to rollout vaccines” and containing the virus.

The statement said the government should “strengthen restriction of movement.”

RNAO president Morgan Hoffarth said in the statement that an increased spread of virus variants, combined with a loosening of public health restrictions, will likely result in school closures.

“If we continue to put business interests ahead of the education, mental health and wellbeing of children, schools will inevitably be forced to close,” Hoffarth said.

Hoffarth called for more government support for small businesses to “get them through the next few months.”

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She also called for primary and home care nurses to be fully utilized in the vaccine rollout.

Global News reached out to the Ministry of Health for a response to the RNAO statement.

“Acknowledging the risk that variants of concern pose to our province’s pandemic response, our government has been clear that a return to [the COVID-19 response] framework is not a re-opening or a return to normal,” ministry spokesperson Christian Hasse said.

“It remains critical for all Ontarians to continue to follow public health measures/advice.”

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Hasse said the province’s chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams, along with a team of health experts, will continue to review COVID-19 trends and provide advice on “the best course of action.”

Hasse also said the government continues to provide funding for hospitals amid the pandemic, with $1.8 billion being invested in 2021-22, bringing the total since the pandemic started to more than $5.1 billion.

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“Ontario Health and the Ontario Critical Care COVID Command Table continue to work with our hospitals to transfer patients from hospitals [that] are at capacity to others sites to ensure no capacity goes untapped,” Hasse added.

Ontario reported 2,448 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, marking the fourth day in a row the province has reported more than 2,000 cases.

On Saturday, 2,453 cases were reported, which was the largest single-day increase in more than two months.

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Nineteen new deaths were also reported on Sunday, bringing the provincial death toll to 7,327.

Provincial figures showed there are at least 917 people hospitalized with the virus, with 366 in intensive care, 217 of whom are on a ventilator.

The province reported 64,950 more COVID-19 vaccine doses administered, bringing the total number of shots given in the province to 1,981,282.

— With files from Jessica Patton and Nick Westoll

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Click to play video: 'New Ontario data causing increasing concern over variant cases'
New Ontario data causing increasing concern over variant cases

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