The Ontario government is poised to impose additional COVID-19 restrictions as the province grapples with rising COVID-19 cases and increased admissions to intensive care units.
During separate news conferences on Tuesday, both Premier Doug Ford and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams indicated all options are “on the table.”
However, they didn’t provide details on specific measures being considered or when those measures might be put into place. However, ahead of an Ontario cabinet meeting Tuesday afternoon a stay-at-home order was raised as a possibility.
“We’re going to have further restrictions moving forward very, very quickly, and again we have to focus on where we see the problem. Three regions: York, Peel and Toronto represent 60 per cent of the COVID cases,” Ford said Tuesday afternoon.
“When you have an inferno going on somewhere, you have to turn the hoses there. You have to continue doing the whole province, but we’re really focusing on the hot areas.”
When asked if there will be a stay-at-home order imposed, Ford said “we’ll discuss that tomorrow” and went on to reference a packed parking lot at Yorkdale Mall over the weekend hours after the province entered the most recent shutdown.
“It was absolutely jampacked and I truly was hoping that people wouldn’t be going in there to the volume that we saw,” he said.
“Folks, this variant is taking off and please when you can, follow all protocols. Make sure when you can stay at home. We understand you’ve got to get out, get fresh air, God bless you, but do it responsibly.
“A lot of people were going into the malls and doing their little wonder around and coming out with no bags, so that tells me they were just out for a daily jaunt. You can’t do that. If you have an essential item that you have to buy and I’m sorry, but going to the malls is not essential. What’s essential is going to buy food, going to buy medicine out of the pharmacies and getting your vaccines.”
Despite Ford’s comments, neither he or his government opted to close malls when the so-called “emergency brake” was unveiled on Thursday. The order took effect at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday and was set to last for at least 28 days.
In-person shopping was permitted, but supermarkets, convenience stores, pharmacies and other stores primarily selling groceries must cap the number of customers to 50 per cent of the approved capacity. For all other retail businesses, there is a cap of 25 per cent capacity under the province’s regulations.
Under the order, indoor malls were required to screen patrons before they enter the mall and loitering inside the malls wasn’t allowed. Each store inside the mall was capped at 25 per cent of the approved capacity.
During a news conference shortly after Ford spoke, Williams was asked if he will be recommending a stay-at-home order. He said the government’s public health measures advisory body was reviewing recommendations from medical officers of health and other stakeholders, but an exact timeframe was unclear.
“We hope to have those recommendations to take forward soon in that to the minister of health,” Williams said.
“Some of those things like the stay-at-home order involves a lot of regulation and legislation, so these things have to be walked through with due diligence … if you’re going to do it, you have to do it right.”
Williams noted during his update that ICUs in Ontario have seen more admissions during the third wave than each of the past two waves, adding an increase of patients under the age of 60.
The Ontario government reported more than 3,000 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, which is in line with the elevated case numbers seen in recent days as the province grapples with a third wave of the virus.
Meanwhile, Toronto’s medical officer of health ordered all schools to temporarily close as of Wednesday.
“Given the evidence, Toronto Public Health (TPH) appreciates the value of in-person learning and firmly believes that schools should be the first places in our community to open, and the last to close,” a news release issued by the department on Tuesday said.
“Unfortunately, current circumstances require that difficult decisions must be taken locally to protect all those in our school communities, including students, teachers and staff.”