Ontario to Implement New Restrictions as Variant Cases Rise
(Bloomberg) -- Ontario will impose a province-wide stay-at-home order for up to four weeks, Canadian media reported, citing unidentified people.
The decision would return Canada’s most populous province to lockdown orders last put in place in January, following the Christmas break. Non-essential retail stores will close except for curbside pickup, CBC News reported. Ontario schools will stay open, the Globe and Mail reported, though health officials opted to halt in-person classes in some regions.
The tighter restrictions were expected as a deadlier strain of coronavirus surges through the province. Ontario Premier Doug Ford warned Tuesday that further restrictions were coming to curb the spread of the virus in Toronto and suburban regions of Peel and York, which represent about 60% of new infections.
Ontario’s Covid-19 cases and death count continues to climb, with the province reporting 3,215 new cases and 17 more deaths on Wednesday. The main variant spreading in Ontario -- first detected in Britain and known as B.1.1.7 -- is 50% more lethal than previous strains, officials have said.
Efforts to quell the most recent surge need to target large employers and residents in virus hot spots, according to Ford. Last month, Peel region ordered Amazon.com Inc. to close a warehouse for two weeks because the infection rate was increasing significantly.
Local health authorities have increasingly preempted Ford’s efforts to contain the virus, particularly around education. On Tuesday, Toronto Public Health followed the Peel and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph regions in closing schools to in-person learning until April 18. Ford has resisted shifting students back to remote learning, saying they are safer in schools.
Ford imposed tighter measures across Ontario last week, though he stopped short of a stay-at-home order. Restaurants, which had been allowed to reopen for outdoor dining only a week earlier, were restricted to takeout and delivery orders. Supermarkets and pharmacies were ordered to operate at 50% capacity, and other retailers were told to reduce to 25% capacity.
The province is moving into a second phase of its vaccination campaign, which includes inoculating essential workers who cannot work from home, people with high-risk health conditions and communities disproportionately impacted by the virus.
In neighboring Quebec, the government also tightened restrictions that had recently been eased, at schools and gyms in Montreal and a few other regions. The move is preventive, in anticipation that variant cases are going to climb, Premier Francois Legault said Tuesday.
“April will be the month of all dangers,” he said.
Canada has given at least one vaccine dose to 14.7% of its population, of which 2.8% have been fully inoculated, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker, and is vaccinating at a slower pace than its neighboring U.S.
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