POLITICS
12/18/2020 20:45 EST

Ontario To Put Hamilton Under Lockdown, Extend Restrictions In Peel, Toronto

“I want to listen to what’s happening on the ground within the hospitals, within (intensive care units),” Doug Ford said.

THE CANADIAN PRESS
Ontario Premier Doug Ford looks at freezers ahead of COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Toronto on Dec. 8, 2020.

TORONTO — Ontario will keep Toronto and Peel Region under lockdown and reveal new measures to fight the pandemic on Monday. 

Premier Doug Ford said Friday that restrictions set to expire next week in the two hot spots will remain in place, and his government will contemplate new measures during emergency talks on COVID-19 this weekend. 

The province also announced Friday it will move Hamilton into lockdown starting Monday.

Ford’s comments came ahead of a teleconference with health officials and hospital leaders regarding the province’s surging infections. 

“I want to listen to what’s happening on the ground within the hospitals, within (intensive care units),” he said. 

“We’re going to have an emergency meeting over the weekend and we’ll make a decision on Monday ... moving forward.”

THE CANADIAN PRESS
ORNGE Chief Paramedic Justin Smith, left, demonstrates a Remote Cold Storage Monitoring insulated container for Ontario Premier Doug Ford, right, and Health Minister Christine Elliott at Toronto Island Airport on Wednesday.

The province said it will also provide updated virus projections on Monday, ahead of Ford’s announcement.

The government meetings come amid calls from hospitals, doctors and nurses for stricter lockdowns in hard-hit regions.

The Ontario Hospital Association, which was speaking to Ford on Friday, has said the government needs to implement a four-week lockdown in every public health unit with 40 or more COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people.

That would mean 11 public health units – including the hot spots of Toronto and Peel Region, as well as Simcoe Muskoka and Middlesex-London – would be affected. 

After its call with Ford, the association said it hopes the province will implement restrictive measures, and that municipalities will accept and support the need for further action.

“On the cusp of the holiday season, should stricter measures not be put in place, and should the public ignore health advice and choose to gather over the holiday season, the consequences risk overwhelming Ontario’s hospitals,” the OHA said in a statement. “Ultimately, every health-care system has its breaking point.”

No curfew: Ford

Ford has offered few details on what potential new measures might look like, except to say that he won’t impose a curfew. 

Ontario reported 2,290 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday and 40 new deaths due to the virus.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said there were 691 new cases in Toronto, 361 in Peel Region, 296 in York Region, 207 in Windsor-Essex and 126 in Hamilton.

The province said 877 people are hospitalized in Ontario due to COVID-19, including 261 in intensive care. Of those, 168 people are on ventilators.

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health has said the province’s COVID-19 caseload is headed in the wrong direction and he’s made new recommendations for Ford’s cabinet to consider. 

Opposition reacts

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath slammed Ford for not announcing new pandemic measures sooner. 

“The guy drags his feet, he’s not prepared to make urgent decisions,” she said Friday. “Ford has no urgency, he doesn’t get what’s happening and I think it’s pretty clear that he has to get his act together and do something.”

Green party Leader Mike Schreiner urged Ford to take action now and introduce new restrictions.

“We are at a tipping point and need urgent action to prevent more illness and deaths,” he said. “COVID will not take the weekend off.” 

Toronto Mayor John Tory said he understands and supports Ford’s decision to keep the city in lockdown past Monday. 

Tory, who has called for new measures to help flatten the virus curve, did so again Friday.

“It is absolutely clear from everything we are hearing from our public health professionals and hospital officials right now that further action on a larger, more region-wide basis is needed in order to save lives and protect the health of all of our residents,” he said in a statement.

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said she supported the decision to keep Peel Region in lockdown and believes it will prevent virus spread and unnecessary deaths.

“I am calling on the province to issue a GTHA-wide lockdown on Monday to drive down case numbers across the larger region and to protect out hospitals,” she said.

Meanwhile, Ontario provided details on Friday about the 17 hospitals that will be distributing the COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks.

The facilities, which include hospitals from Windsor to Thunder Bay, Ont., will join the University Health Network in Toronto and the Ottawa Hospital in giving the vaccine to health-care workers. 

The hospitals in Toronto and Ottawa began administering the shots Monday, and the government said Friday that they have given more than 2,300 doses to health-care workers thus far.

The province expects to receive an additional 90,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by the end of the month.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 18, 2020.