The Ontario-wide lockdown will start on Boxing Day, Premier Doug Ford has announced.
The move will restrict non-essential retail and prohibit indoor dining right across the province starting at 12:01 a.m. the day after Christmas. The province-wide lockdown will last until January 9, 2021. After that date, restrictions will remain in effect until Jan. 23 for all public health unit regions in Southern Ontario.
This comes as the province records its seventh straight day of over 2,000 new COVID-19 cases. Toronto and Peel Region continue to have the largest number of cases.
The lockdown means no indoor organized public events or social gatherings, except with members of the same household. Weddings, funerals and other religious services can only have 10 people regardless if they are indoor or outdoor.
When asked why the date had been pushed back two days from the original plan that saw the lockdown go into effect on Christmas Eve, premier Ford said they needed to give businesses that have not experienced a lockdown before time to prepare.
“[We need to] give them the opportunity to get ready to hunker down. We can’t do it overnight and leave these people with inventory, especially restaurants with food inventory.”
As for education across the province, both publicly-funded and private schools will move to remote learning heading into the new year.
Here in the GTA, Elementary school students will take part in remote learning from January 4 to 8 and return to in-person learning on January 11. Secondary students will continue to learn remotely until January 24 and return to the classroom the next day.
The government says child care will remain open for the duration of the province-wide shutdown. But, during the time when elementary schools are operating virtually, “licensed child care centres and authorized recreation and skill-building providers will be prohibited from serving school-aged children.” Before and after school programs will also be shut down during the period of Jan 4 to 8.
The decision comes as various medical organizations have pressed the government for stronger action in order to alleviate the growing strain on the health care system.
An association of GTA hospitals joined the Ontario Hospital Association and the Ontario Medical Association in calling for stronger lockdown measures, warning that a surge in cases following the holiday season is expected to make the situation even worse.
The group says frontline health care workers are stressed and their efforts to battle the pandemic are being overstretched and is reaching a level that is “simply not sustainable for much longer.”
“We are seeing increasing numbers of staff becoming ill and not able to work – both with COVID-19 and other illnesses. While we are coping and planning for redeployment, we are seeing more illness and stress and hearing about the toll this is taking on people’s families,” the joint statement reads.
“We recognize that lockdown measures are challenging for many members of our communities, but we cannot afford to put patients and health care workers at further risk.”