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Canada’s most populous province is to enter a “hard lockdown” as Ontario experiences an alarming rate of new coronavirus cases before the Christmas holidays.
“Thousands of lives are at stake now,” said Ontario’s premier, Doug Ford, on Monday, as he announced a slate of new restrictions that go into effect on Boxing Day. “If we fail to take action now, the consequences could be catastrophic.
Ford cited a spike in cases for the new measures, calling the decision a necessary move. “Make no mistake, thousands of lives are at stake right now,” he said.
The lockdown will last for two weeks for northern communities in the province – and a full month for densely populated cities in the south.
On Monday, the province recorded 2,123 new cases of Covid-19 – the seventh day in a row of cases above 2000. In late summer, Ontario was recording single-digit cases.
Modelling from the province earlier in the morning showed that, without intervention, Ontario could see more than 5,000 new cases a day by early January. As many as 1,500 people could be in the ICU under a worst-case scenario – a figure roughly five and a half times the current level.
Provincial health officials pointed to “hard lockdowns” in France and Australia that were successful in dramatically slowing the spread of the virus – but stopped short of implementing a curfew.
Ford also defended the delay in new measures, citing a need for businesses to adjust and clear inventory.
Toronto and Peel region, the two worst-hit areas, have been in lockdown for nearly a month, with indoor dining, salons and gyms all closed. Only “essential” business — such as grocery stores and pharmacies — have been allowed to remain open.
Ontario’s new lockdown expands those restrictions to the rest of the province, closing all non-essential businesses. Capacity at grocery stores will be reduced and some previously essential services including hardware stores move to kerb-side pickup only.
But a number of industries with workplace outbreaks, including logistics companies handling a surge in deliveries, will continue to operate.
Ontario will also extend the winter break for students. High school students won’t return to in-person instruction until 25 January.
Since late November, there has been a 70% increase in overall hospitalisations of patients and an increase of 80% in ICU admissions.
Before Ford’s announcement, the Ontario Hospital Association said in a statement that healthcare workers are “stressed and overstretched” from the surge in cases.
Ford also said he was “extremely alarmed” by reports of a new strain of coronavirus in the United Kingdom. Canada recently suspended flights from the UK, and Ford called on the federal government to test the 63,000 travellers that arrive internationally at Toronto’s Pearson airport each week.
Canada now has more than 77,000 active cases across the country and 14,228 deaths.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Ontario announces hard lockdown after Covid cases surge | World news