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TORONTO - Ontario is moving the COVID-19 hot spots of Toronto and neighbouring Peel Region into lockdown in an effort to bring surging infections under control.
The two regions, which have reported the highest number of daily cases for weeks, will be under the toughest measures available in the province's COVID-19 restriction system as of Monday.
That means, among other things, no indoor organized public events or social gatherings except with members of the same household and a recommendation to only leave the house for essential reasons.
The lockdown will also limit non-essential retailers to curbside pickup, ban indoor dining at restaurants and bars, close personal care services, and shutter indoor sports facilities.
Premier Doug Ford said the lockdown was urgently needed.
“This virus, it spreads like wildfire, and in certain parts of the province it's spreading at alarming rates in the community,” he said.
“Last week, modeling showed that if nothing was done we could face 6,000 daily cases - overwhelming our ICUs shortly after that. More deaths. More losses. But we can avoid this if we take further action now.”
Schools and child care centres will remain open.
Grocery stores, pharmacies and big box retailers will be deemed essential and stay open, with capacity limits.
Ford tried to assure residents of Toronto and Peel that they would still be able to get food and supplies they need during the lockdown.
“Avoid panic buying,” he said. “There's no need to buy more than you need for a week or two.”
The lockdown will last a minimum of 28 days and the province said it will fine people $750 for violating public health rules.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said the lockdown was necessary to reduce community spread, prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed, and protect long-term care residents.
“As we've seen around the world lockdowns are difficult, but necessary steps to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks and bend the curve in the number of new cases,” she said.
The move comes as Ontario reported 1,418 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, along with eight new deaths related to the virus.
The government said there were 400 new cases in Peel Region, 393 in Toronto and 168 in York Region.
The latest figures have pushed the province over the 100,000 case mark, for a total of 100,790 infections.