Toronto Goes Back to Lockdown as ICUs Fill With Virus Patients
(Bloomberg) -- Canada’s largest province ordered a lockdown in Toronto and one of its suburbs, a declaration that forces shopping malls, restaurants and other businesses to close their doors to slow a second wave of coronavirus cases.
Ontario, home to 14.7 million of the country’s 38 million people, said all non-essential retail stores in Toronto and Peel will have to close, though they can take orders for outdoor pickup and delivery. Restaurants will be allowed to operate takeout and delivery services only. Personal services such as salons will also shut down and indoor gatherings will be largely banned.
The measures, which take effect Monday, mean Canada’s financial capital will be operating with restrictions on business similar to the start of the pandemic. Unlike in March, schools are staying open.
“I know these past few months have been extremely difficult. Covid fatigue is setting in on all of us, but I’ve seen the strength of our people and it’s up to each and every one of us to determine our future,” Premier Doug Ford said at a Friday news conference in Toronto.
He called the situation “extremely serious” and noted the number of virus patients in intensive care units went up nearly 50% in one week in Ontario -- to the point that other surgeries will have to be canceled.
Cases of Covid-19 in Canada are on pace to exceed 20,000 a day at the current rate of spread, according to data released Friday by the Public Health Agency of Canada. Canada has averaged just under 5,000 cases daily over the past seven days. Dr. Theresa Tam, the country’s top medical officer, warned they could hit 60,000 a day if Canadians increase their social interactions.
“We need to do everything we can right now to slow the spread of Covid 19 -- to stop the spike in its tracks,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters outside his residence in Ottawa. His choice of Rideau Cottage instead of a Parliament Hill press room for his daily briefing signaled a return to the strategy seen throughout the first-wave lockdown that began in March.
“We’re going to need to have to do this for another few weeks, another few months, then we can begin to see the other side of this,” he said. “We can do this. We’ve done it before. We know what to do.”
The prime minister reiterated his government would support workers and businesses through any new shutdowns, but he didn’t announce any new national measures. He declined to impose curbs on inter-provincial travel and confirmed restrictions along the Canada-U.S. border have been extended until Dec. 21.
New lockdown measures could have a crippling effect on retailers. Black Friday, when retail sales are usually at a higher level than the rest of the year, is next week, and the Christmas and New Year’s holidays are coming soon.
Covid-19 hospitalizations have been rising since the end of the summer. In Ontario, the seven-day average of new cases has consistently remained above 1,000 since Nov. 6, according to data from Ford’s government. Since mid-August, Canada’s effective reproduction number has stayed above one, meaning that each new case is infecting more than one person.
The French-speaking province of Quebec, Canada’s second biggest, has extended partial lockdown measures into the new year. However, Premier Francois Legault proposed a “moral contract” Thursday that would allow family gatherings of up to 10 people over Christmas, if participants isolate for one week before and after.
In the west, British Columbia made face masks mandatory indoors for the first time during the pandemic after new infections set a fresh daily record of 762 earlier in this week.
The province, which had successfully clamped down on one of North America’s earliest outbreaks at the beginning of the year, had tightened restrictions in the Vancouver area this month. But that failed to check the virus’ spread and infections are climbing across the province.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Thursday those measures would be extended province-wide. They include a suspension of all gatherings except weddings, funerals and baptisms -- which can only proceed with 10 people and a Covid-19 safety plan -- as well as indoor group fitness activities like yoga and spin classes. Travel in and out of one’s community is “strongly discouraged.”
B.C. Premier John Horgan has called on the Trudeau government to implement a nationwide approach to restricting all non-essential trips. Such measures are set to hit the province’s roughly C$2 billion ($1.5 billion) ski industry just as its famed resorts like Vail Resort Inc.’s Whistler Blackcomb are about to open.
“The coming weeks will be the most difficult in our pandemic,” Henry said. “Our focus is to slow the spread over the next one to two incubation periods.”
She added: “We must remember that we flattened our curve before and we can again.”
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