Another lockdown in Ontario will be devastating as it's a blunt instrument: Rocco Rossi
Canada’s largest province appears poised to order the shutdown of more businesses with federal officials warning daily coronavirus cases could quadruple heading into the holiday season.
Ontario, home to 14.7 million of Canada’s 38 million people, will announce “tough” new restrictions Friday afternoon, Premier Doug Ford said Thursday. His cabinet is considering closing down gyms and personal-care services, and limiting capacity in shopping malls and stores for 28 days in the worst-hit regions, according to the Toronto Star.
Cases of COVID-19 are on pace to exceed 20,000 a day at the current rate of spread, according to data released Friday by the Public Health Agency of Canada. Canada has averaged just under 5,000 cases daily over the past seven days. Dr. Theresa Tam, the country’s top medical officer, warned they could hit 60,000 a day if Canadians increase their social interactions.
“We need to do everything we can right now to slow the spread of COVID 19 -- to stop the spike in its tracks,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters outside his residence in Ottawa. His choice of Rideau Cottage instead of a Parliament Hill press room for his daily briefing signaled a return to the strategy seen throughout the first-wave lockdown that began in March.
“We’re going to need to have to do this for another few weeks, another few months, then we can begin to see the other side of this,” he said. “We can do this. We’ve done it before. We know what to do.”
The prime minister reiterated his government would support workers and businesses through any new shutdowns, but he didn’t announce any new national measures. He declined to impose curbs on inter-provincial travel and confirmed restrictions along the Canada-U.S. border have been extended until Dec. 21.
Movie theaters and indoor dining at restaurants are already closed or restricted in parts of Ontario including Toronto, the nation’s financial capital. New lockdown measures could have a crippling effect on retailers -- Black Friday, when retail sales are usually at a higher level than the rest of the year, is next week, and the Christmas and New Year’s holidays are coming soon.
COVID hospitalizations have been rapidly spreading since the end of the summer. In Ontario, the seven-day average of new cases has consistently remained above 1,000 since Nov. 6, according to data from Ford’s government. Since mid-August, Canada’s effective reproduction number has stayed above one, meaning that each new case is infecting more than one person.
The French-speaking province of Quebec, Canada’s second biggest, has extended partial lockdown measures into the new year. However, Premier Francois Legault proposed a “moral contract” Thursday that would allow family gatherings of up to 10 people over Christmas, if participants isolate for one week before and after.
In the west, British Columbia made face masks mandatory indoors for the first time during the pandemic after new infections set a fresh daily record of 762 earlier in this week.
The province, which had successfully clamped down on one of North America’s earliest outbreaks at the beginning of the year, had tightened restrictions in the Vancouver area this month. But that failed to check the virus’ spread and infections are climbing across the province.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Thursday those measures would be extended province-wide. They include a suspension of all gatherings except weddings, funerals and baptisms -- which can only proceed with 10 people and a COVID-19 safety plan -- as well as indoor group fitness activities like yoga and spin classes. Travel in and out of one’s community is “strongly discouraged.”
B.C. Premier John Horgan has called on the Trudeau government to implement a nationwide approach to restricting all non-essential trips. Such measures are set to hit the province’s roughly $2 billion (US$1.5 billion) ski industry just as its famed resorts like Vail Resort Inc.’s Whistler Blackcomb are about to open.
“The coming weeks will be the most difficult in our pandemic,” Henry said. “Our focus is to slow the spread over the next one to two incubation periods.”
She added: “We must remember that we flattened our curve before and we can again.”