Ontario lockdown in effect

Lockdown to last at least until Jan. 23 in southern Ontario including Simcoe Muskoka

Nearly all non-essential businesses are closed as part of a province-wide lockdown that kicked in at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, on what is normally one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

Premier Doug Ford announced the lockdown on Monday.

“The number of daily cases continue to rise putting our hospitals and long-term care homes at risk,” said Premier Ford. “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 will be in place until at least Jan 23 in southern Ontario, while the lockdown in northern sections of the province could be lifted on Jan. 9.

The lockdown imposes restrictions on social gatherings. Ontarians will only be permitted to gather with members of their own household. Individuals who live alone may consider having close contact with one other household.

If you remember the lockdown in March, then this will be very familiar.

Non-essential retailers are closed, but can offer curbside pick-up. This includes pet stores and hardware stores. Shopping malls will be closed except for members of the public to access essential services.

Under the lockdown orders, bars and restaurants may only remain open for takeout. Gyms and personal care services are closed. Ski hills are not open.

Public libraries can offer curbside pick-up, but there is no public access to those facilities.

Big box retailers that sell groceries have the green light to keep their doors open but they must follow strict capacity limits of 25 per cent. This also applies to beer and liquor stores. Convenience stores, supermarkets and pharmacies are open with 50 per cent capacity.

If you are in the market to purchase a vehicle, call ahead to book an appointment.

Tourist attractions, zoos and museums are closed, as are bingo halls, casinos and movie theatres.

Remote learning will be in place at all Ontario schools when the holiday break ends. Classrooms are expected to open Jan. 11 for students who attend publicly funded elementary schools in the province. In-person learning for high school students in the north is also to resume on Jan. 11, but secondary school students in southern Ontario won’t be allowed to return to the classroom until Jan. 25.

There is help for parents as child care centres can remain open.

Modelling data released from public health officials in advance of Premier Ford’s announcement on Monday indicated 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. “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 said a lockdown of 4-6 weeks is expected to bring down the number of new cases per day to below 1,000.

Ontario reported a record 2,447 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday. The next update from the province will be on Saturday, Dec. 26.