Short on time? Here’s what you need to know:
-the province is imposing a 28-day full lockdown to southern Ontario, from Sudbury south through the GTA.
-elementary school students won’t return to the classroom until at least January 11, January 25 for high school students
-Grocery stores and pharmacies will remain open with limited capacity, while restaurants are restricted to take-out or delivery only; no indoor dining
-Most retail stores will be restricted to curbside pickup only
-If the province did nothing, there would be some 3,000 cases of COVID per day by January’s end
The Ontario Government has announced a full lockdown across the province will come into effect at 12:01 a.m. December 26, as data indicates we could see 3,000 cases a day otherwise.
The lockdown, which imposes restrictions on all non-essential business in the province, will be in place for a minimum of 28 days for all of southern Ontario, starting from Sudbury and south through Barrie and into the GTA. North of Sudbury, the lockdown will be in effect for at least 14 days.
“The number of daily cases continue to rise putting our hospitals and long-term care homes at risk,” said Premier Ford. “We need to stop the spread of this deadly virus. That’s why, on the advice of Dr. Williams and other health experts, we are taking the difficult but necessary decision to shutdown the province and ask people to stay home. Nothing is more important right now than the health and safety of all Ontarians.”
The lockdown announced Monday imposes restrictions on social gatherings. Ontarians will only be permitted to gather with members of their own household for the duration of the lockdown. Individuals who live alone may consider having exclusive close contact with one other household.
Schools across the province will remain closed to in-class learning following the winter break; while students were expected to return to class on January 4, elementary students will be off until at least January 11 instead, while secondary school students will not be back in the brick-and-mortar classroom until January 25, with online learning at least until then.
From January 4-8, 2021, when elementary students move to remote learning, before and after school programs will be closed and emergency child care for health care and frontline workers will be provided.
Similar to the one in the spring, the lockdown will apply to all non-essential businesses like retail and restaurants. Non-essential stores will close, while restaurants will be restricted to delivery or take-out orders only, with no indoor or outdoor dining permitted. Essential businesses like grocery stores will remain open with reduced capacity.
In-person shopping is prohibited in most retail settings, while curbside pickup or delivery is permitted to continue. Discount and big box stores that sell groceries are limited to 25 percent capacity as of December 26. Indoor access to shopping malls is restricted under this lockdown, but patrons will be allowed entry only to attend a designated indoor pickup area and by appointment only.
The lockdown could be increased further should provincial COVID-19 numbers continue to grow. Modelling data released from public health officials in advance of Premier Ford’s announcement on Monday indicates no matter what course we take, ICU bed occupancy will surpass 300 within ten days, and were we to do nothing, it would exceed 1,500 by mid-January.
“We are in a very, very challenging situation in terms of control of the disease,” said Dr. Steini Brown from Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table on Monday morning. “It is important to note that we’re in a place still with very, very strong growth potential. Even a flattening of the curve of just about 1%, which we’ve seen is a very consistent sort of seven-day average growth rate, you’ll still see almost 3000 cases a day in the province.” Dr. Brown says a total lockdown of 4-6 weeks is expected to bring down the number of new cases per day to below 1,000.
On Monday, the province reported over 2,100 new cases of COVID-19.