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Province-wide lockdown set for Boxing Day: Schools to remain closed until January 11

December 23, 2020   ·   0 Comments

A Province-wide lockdown set to begin on Boxing Day will last for at least 28 days in Southern Ontario, Premier Doug Ford announced on Monday.

New restrictions were announced by Premier Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott on December 21 that will not only see all non-essential businesses closed to customers, aside from delivery and curbside, for the duration of the lockdown, but schools shuttered until January 11.

“This difficult action is without a doubt necessary to save lives and prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed in the coming weeks,” said the Premier. “Make no mistake: thousands of lives are at stake right now. If we fail to take action now, the consequences could be catastrophic and, as Premier, it is my duty to act. As Premier, it falls on me to make the difficult but necessary decisions.

“I will never, ever shy away from my duty to protect the people of Ontario. This Province-wide shut-down is a temporary but one-time measure in response to the exceptional circumstances we’re facing. We’re asking all Ontarians to stay at home and only leave when absolutely necessary, such as work, groceries, prescriptions, or medical appointments. Essential businesses such as grocery stores and pharmacies will remain open at reduced capacity. Other retailers will be open for curbside pickup and deliveries only.”

New measures include restricting indoor organized public events and social gatherings, except with members of the same household (the people you live with), while “individuals who live alone may consider having exclusive close contact with one other household.” Big box retailers will be limited to 25 per cent capacity for in-store shopping, while pharmacies, supermarkets, grocery stores, and other stores that sell food will operate at a 50 per cent capacity.

Indoor and outdoor restaurant dining is also prohibited, and restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments will be permitted to operate take-out, drive-thru and delivery.

On the school front, all publicly-funded and private elementary and secondary schools will move to teacher-led remote learning at the end of winter break on January 4. Parents, at press time, can plan to see their elementary school students return to in-person learning on January 11, while secondary school classes will resume in-person learning until January 25. Until then, secondary school students will continue remote learning.

Before- and after-school programs will also be closed, but emergency child care will be provided for health care and frontline workers.

“I want to be clear: Schools are not part of the problem of COVID in our communities, but out of an abundance of caution, school closures over the winter break will be extended,” said the Premier. “Asking students and staff to stay home a little longer will help ensure we do what is needed to control the spread.”

Monday’s decision was a “difficult” one, said the Premier, but necessary as COVID-19 numbers “continue accelerating at an alarming rate.” An additional concern, he noted, was people travelling from places already in Grey (Lockdown) Zones like York Region, Toronto and Peel, and Red (Control) Zones, in which Simcoe-Muskoka was recently placed, to places with looser restrictions.

“COVID is spreading rapidly from high outbreak areas to areas with fewer cases,” said Ford. “As it does, our hospitals are filling up more each day. We have seen a 70 per cent increase in hospitalizations and 80 per cent increase in ICU admissions in the past few weeks. Remember, 75 per cent of our intensive care unit beds at any given time are taken up by people who have had car accidents, or heart attacks, or other emergencies. Above all, we need to preserve capacity in our ICUs and our hospitals. But, because of increased cases of COVID-19 filling up our hospitals, we’re on the verge of cancelling more elective surgeries and we already have thousands and thousands of backlogged surgeries.

“The vaccine has started to trickle in but due to limits in supply, it will be months before we have mass immunization. In the meantime, we need to do everything in our power to protect our hospitals and our most vulnerable. We need a runway for the vaccine to roll out.”

By Brock Weir


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