|Ontario is imposing stricter measures in Toronto, Ottawa and Peel Region in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19 as the province’s curve climbs ever-steeper. The measures, which go into effect Saturday for a period of 28 days, include prohibiting indoor dining at restaurants and bars, and closing gyms, movie theatres and casinos. After that, the province’s health experts will review the measures. The government is also asking people in those areas to leave their homes only for essential purposes. Schools and child-care centres will remain open as part of the plan, and provincial Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said a large-scale shut down of schools is “not merited at this time.”
The new restrictions come as Ontario marked a record 939 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, most of them in Toronto, Ottawa and Peel Region. Those regions have consistently reported the majority of new cases in recent weeks. “All trends are going in the wrong direction,” Premier Doug Ford said at a news conference, saying the pandemic has picked up speed at “an alarming rate.” Ford also announced $300 million to support businesses amid the closures. Ford added that if current trends continue, hospitals could be overwhelmed with intensive-care unit placements tripling in less than 30 days. “If we don’t take action now, the situation could overtake us,” said Health Minister Christine Elliott. The government said if current trends continue, the province could experience “worst-case scenarios” seen in northern Italy and New York City earlier in the pandemic.
Ford said the measures were decided on after the province’s top doctors provided “brand new data” to justify new restrictions — although critics have been calling for a rollback to stricter measures for several weeks. Asked why the province didn’t act sooner despite the calls of many doctors and health professionals, Ford said he took his direction from the province’s health table, adding the recent surge was a sudden one. That’s despite Ontario’s own modelling forecasting 1,000 cases by mid-October more than a week ago. “I made a decisive decision to act immediately,” he said. “If I didn’t make this decision now, I would be negligent.”