We are leading the nation in school COVID measures: Ontario education minister
Ontario will implement further COVID-19 restrictions soon, with a focus on areas being hardest hit as a deadlier strain of coronavirus surges through Canada’s most populous province.
The new measures will aim to curb the spread of the virus in Toronto and suburban regions of Peel and York, which represent about 60 per cent of new infections, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Tuesday at a news conference. Details will be disclosed on Wednesday, he said.
“We made a massive move last week by basically shutting down the entire province,” Ford said. “We’re going to have further restrictions moving forward very quickly.”
Ontario’s cabinet is meeting this afternoon to discuss options, including the possibility of a new stay-at-home order, CTV News reported, citing sources.
Efforts to quell the most recent surge will target large employers and residents in virus hot spots, Ford said Tuesday. Last month, Peel region ordered Amazon.com Inc. to close a warehouse for two weeks because the infection rate was increasing significantly.
Local health authorities have increasingly preempted Ford’s efforts to contain the virus, particularly around education. On Tuesday, Toronto Public Health followed the Peel and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph regions in closing schools to in-person learning until April 18. Ford has resisted shifting students back to remote learning, saying they are safer in schools.
Ontario reported 3,065 new cases and eight deaths on Tuesday. The main variant spreading in Ontario -- known as B.1.1.7 -- is 50 per cent more lethal than previous strains, officials have said. The province is moving into a second phase of its vaccination campaign, which includes inoculating essential workers who cannot work from home, people with high-risk health conditions and communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the virus.
Ford imposed tighter measures across Ontario last week though he stopped short of a stay-at-home order. Restaurants, which had been allowed to reopen for outdoor dining only a week earlier, were restricted to takeout and delivery orders. Supermarkets and pharmacies were ordered to operate at 50 per cent capacity, and other retailers were told to reduce to 25 per cent capacity.
“It’s changing day-by-day, hour-by-hour, and we need to be ready to adapt as we see issues emerge,” Ford said Tuesday.
In neighboring Quebec, the government also tightened restrictions that had recently been eased, at schools and gyms in Montreal and a few other regions.
The move is preventive, in anticipation that variant cases are going to climb, Premier Francois Legault said Tuesday.
“April will be the month of all dangers,” he said.
Canada has fully inoculated 2.7 per cent of its population, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker, and is vaccinating at a slower pace than its neighboring U.S.