Ontario lockdown may not lift at end of January: Ford
'When you see the modeling, you'll fall off your chair'
By Shawn Jeffords
TORONTO — Ontario’s current lockdown may need to be extended and “extreme” new measures could be put in place if skyrocketing COVID-19 rates do not come down, the government said Friday as the province hit a new high in daily infections.
Premier Doug Ford appealed to residents to strictly follow public health guidelines to prevent the situation from getting worse.
If the numbers continue on their current trajectory, he warned, hospital capacity will be stretched even further and many more people will fall ill.
“If these basic measures continue to be ignored, the consequences will be more dire,” Ford said. “The shutdown won’t end at the end of January. And we will have to look at more extreme measures.”
The premier did not say what additional measures the province is considering or when they could be introduced.
Ontario cracks 4,000 case threshold
His warning came as Ontario reported a new high of 4,249 new cases of COVID-19.
It was a record-breaking figure for daily infections even after factoring in 450 cases from Jan. 5 and Jan. 6 that were included in the Friday total. The province also reported 26 more deaths from the virus.
Ontario’s Associate Medical Officer of Health called the new numbers “scary.”
Dr. Barbara Yaffe said a stricter lockdown, more similar to one imposed in the spring, may be necessary and urged people not to be complacent about following public health measures.
“We are in a very serious situation,” she said. “We need to consider all possible measures to contain this infection. We don’t want more people dying. We don’t want (hospital) ICUs overwhelmed.”
The current provincial lockdown began Boxing Day and is set to last until Jan. 23.
On Thursday, the government announced all schools in southern Ontario will remain closed for in-person learning until Jan. 25 to protect students and staff from surging rates of COVID-19.
New data is concerning
Ford said Friday that new COVID-19 projections that will be released next week are very concerning.
“When you see the modeling you’ll fall off your chair,” he said. “We have to do whatever it takes.”
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath slammed Ford for not imposing more stringent lockdown measures sooner.
“Even the lockdown that we’re currently in isn’t as strong as the one that was in (place in) April,” she said. “I don’t understand why the government didn’t do that the last time they announced stronger measures.”
Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said the latest COVID-19 figures show much more action is needed to protect long-term care residents and speed up the vaccine distribution.
“It’s clear that (Premier Ford) has completely lost control over the pandemic,” he said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the CEO of a Toronto hospital running COVID-19 vaccination clinics said the facility will run out of shots Friday and urgently needs more.
The University Health Network executive made the plea on social media ahead of thousands of immunization appointments scheduled for this weekend.
Kevin Smith said 3,000 people are booked per day to receive the immunization on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.
Ontario said earlier this week that all long-term care residents, workers and essential caregivers in COVID-19 hot spots will be vaccinated by Jan. 21.