Ford announces four-week 'emergency-brake shutdown' of Ontario

Province wide lockdown to begin Saturday

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announcing a lockdown on Thursday

Earlier this week, the president of Ontario's Hospital Association (OHA), said hospitals reached a record high with at least 421 COVID-19 patients now in the province's intensive care units.

The province also deemed 1,819 more cases of the disease to be resolved as of Saturday, bringing Ontario's number of recovered patients up to 327,940.

"This is a new pandemic".

During the emergency shutdown, schools will remain open for in-person learning with strict safety measures in place.

And it comes as COVID cases in Ontario have more than doubled since the first week of March while vaccines have not arrived quickly enough to slow the spread of more contagious and deadlier variants of the virus among the general population.

Prohibiting indoor organized public events and social gatherings and limiting the capacity for outdoor organized public events or social gatherings to a five-person maximum, except for gatherings with members of the same household (the people you live with) or gatherings of members of one household and one other person from another household who lives alone.

According to the provincial government, the current COVID-19 Response Framework: Keeping Ontario Safe and Open, will be paused when this province-wide "emergency brake" comes into effect, and the impacts of the "time-limited measures" will be evaluated throughout the next four weeks to determine if it is safe to lift any restrictions or if they need to be extended. "Younger people are ending up in the hospital and with these new variants, ICU admissions is two times higher, deaths are one-and-a-half times higher".

New variants of the virus risk overwhelming ICUs and threaten the care of all patients, warned Dr. Steini Brown, co-chair of the province's science advisory table.

Premier François Legault said he's talking to the Ontario government about limiting travel between Ottawa and the nearby town of Gatineau in Quebec. "An uncontrolled third wave would necessitate longer and harsher measures".

A total of 2,424,063 vaccine doses have been given in the province so far. "Knowing that non-essential stores need to open kind of makes me anxious". It is estimated that over 245,000 surgeries have been delayed, cancelled or postponed throughout the pandemic.

But while the stay-at-home order may not have been well received, it did seem to stop people from coming into the big-box drugstore where 22-year-old Odessa Ordanza works as a cashier in Mississauga, Ont. The peak of 800 is expected, even if the province implements a stay-at-home order and continues vaccinations.

New modelling also shows Ontario could have up to 6,000 new cases a day by the end of April due to the new variants of the virus.

All 34 public-health regions went into the grey zone on December 26, followed by a provincewide stay-at-home order on January 14 that suspended the colour-coded system.

There are now, 2,116 confirmed COVID-19 variant cases in Ontario.

Provincial and local health officials are urging residents not to gather with anyone outside their household over the Easter long weekend.

"As we continue to vaccinate more Ontarians, the end is in sight, but right now these necessary measures will help to stop the spread of variants in our communities, protect capacity in our health care system, and save lives".

Williamson added, "We can all help stem the tide of cases by practicing good public health measures: gathering only with our households, wearing a face covering around and maintaining physical distancing with everyone else, and practicing good hand hygiene".

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