Police have more powers and golf courses are closed after Premier Doug Ford said Ontario is loosing the battle against variants and vaccines.
First, the provincial science experts painted a grim picture of the rising number of COVID-19 cases and its affect on the health care system.
Dr. Adelstein Brown of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Table told reporters that with weak public health measure over the next four weeks, the number of people infected with COVID-19 could rise to 30,000 cases a day by May. With moderate measures, that will be about 15,000 per day.
The only way to keep COVID-19 cases from rising higher than they are now, says Brown is with strong public health measures in the next six weeks and and administering 100,000 of vaccine a day.
Ontario has been hitting that vaccine target, however delays in shipments of Moderna vaccine are slowing efforts down.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today another eight million Pfizer doses have been secured, four million will arrive in the country in May.
Premier Ford took aim at the federal government saying the province isn’t getting the supply it needs to end the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is the bottom line; would we be in this position if we were getting 300,000 vaccines back in February like the rest of the world? Absolutely not; we wouldn’t be facing the crisis in ICU, we would not have schools shutdown. We need the vaccine. By hook, by crook, the feds need to get us vaccine,” said Ford in answering a question on why more manufacturing facilities – which have generated a large number of COVID-19 cases – were not closed.
Public health officials, even today, have repeatedly said vaccines alone will not end the pandemic but have advocated strong public health measures.
“Sooner or later you have to do it,” said Dr. Brown about strong public health measures.
But even with strong measures, Brown said intensive care units will continue to be full of COVID-19 patients. There are over 700 people in ICU Friday. Brown says there will be 1,500 in the next week or two. “Those numbers are baked in.”
Brown added scientist had been warning since February this would happen; “This is what we were expecting…if we relaxed the public health measures.”
Ford implemented a couple of measures including:
- giving police the authority to stop people to ask them why they aren’t at home to enforce the Stay-at-Home orders and issue tickets of $750
- set up checkpoints at the borders of Manitoba and Quebec to stop people who are traveling for non-essential reasons.
- extended the Stay at Home order for two extra weeks – until May 20
- diverting 25 per cent more of Ontario’s vaccine supply to hotspot areas
- shutting down some construction sites including malls, office towers; home building to continue as will the $2 billion Nova Chemical projects
- no outdoor gatherings other than your immediate family
- outdoor sports and recreation facilities including playgrounds, basketball courts, soccer fields, tennis courts and golf facilities are closed starting Saturday
- churches may only have 10 people inside the building starting Monday; drive in services are okay – weddings included in this
- capacity at supermarkets, big box stores cut from 50 per cent to 25 per cent.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath the government failed to give essential workers “the tools they need to stay safe. “They will be the same people, the ones police are saksing questions to or approching on their way to work, because they cannot not go to work,” she says adding the measures are “not there to support them but to police them.
“Listen to the experts. Get more vaccines to hotspots. Give all workers paid sick days. Give them paid time off to get their shot. Put strong travel restrictions in place now. Get non-essential workers out of workplaces, and close non-essential businesses. And accept the federal government’s offer of help — we need the Red Cross, the military, and health care staff any other jurisdiction can spare,” said Horwath.
“The stronger the measures are now, the sooner this nightmare will be over.”
On Twitter, Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca agreed. “I simply don’t believe the Science Table recommended martial law. This is a dangerous attack on racialized Ontarians, and Doug Ford needs to be held accountable for it. I can’t believe (the government) is calling carding a public health measure while refusing paid sick days.”
Del Duca also called for Ford to appoint a “COVID Czar” with a science background to make the decisions and to “get the vaccines rolled out properly …without Doug Ford’s anti-science” influence.
Here is the full text of the government news release
TORONTO — The Ontario government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and other health experts, is strengthening enforcement of the province’s Stay-at-Home order while imposing new travel restrictions and further strengthening public health measures. These urgent actions are targeted at stopping the rapid growth in COVID-19 case rates and relieving mounting pressures on the province’s health care system.
Details were provided today by Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development and Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health.
“As the latest modelling confirms, without taking immediate and decisive action COVID-19 cases will spiral out of control and our hospitals will be overwhelmed,” said Premier Ford. “That’s why we are making difficult, but necessary decisions to reduce mobility and keep people in the safety of their own homes. We need to contain the spread of this deadly virus, while getting vaccines in as many arms as quickly as possible.”
To increase public compliance with the Stay-at-Home order and stop the spread of COVID-19, amendments to an emergency order (O.Reg 8/21 Enforcement of COVID-19 Measures) have been made that will provide police officers and other provincial offences officers enhanced authority to support the enforcement of Ontario’s Stay-at-Home order.
Effective Saturday, April 17, 2021 at 12:01 a.m., police officers and other provincial offences officers will have the authority to require any individual to provide their home address and purpose for not being at their residence. In addition, police officers, special constables and First Nation Constables will have the authority to stop vehicles to inquire about an individual’s reasons for leaving their home. This additional enforcement tool will only be in effect during the Stay-at-Home order and exclusively to enforce the Stay-at-Home order.
“With our hospital system under significant pressure and the continued increase of COVID-19 variants, we are stepping up enforcement to ensure that people adhere to the Stay-at-Home order and follow public health measures,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. “This is a critical moment in Ontario’s response to this deadly virus, that’s why we are doing whatever it takes to stop the spread and protect our communities.”
Both the provincial declaration of emergency and the Stay-at-Home order (O.Reg 265/21) have been extended for an additional two weeks to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The Stay-at-Home order currently in effect requires everyone to remain at home except for specified purposes, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services (including getting vaccinated), for outdoor exercise, or for work that cannot be done remotely.
“Now, more than ever before, businesses need to take all measures possible to stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Minister McNaughton. “We’re in workplaces every day to enforce safety requirements and we won’t hesitate to stop unsafe work and ticket offenders. Today, we launched an enhanced, targeted provincewide inspection campaign of construction sites, dispatching 200 workplace inspectors, supported by provincial offenses officers, to visit 1,300 constructions sites to enforce COVID-19 safety requirements. In addition, provincial offences officers will also be visiting over 500 workplaces this weekend in the COVID-19 hotspots of Ottawa, Toronto and York Region. Their visits will include big-box stores, food processors, manufacturers and warehouses.”
In order to limit the transmission of the variants of concern, the government is also restricting travel into Ontario from the provinces of Manitoba and Quebec with the exception of purposes such as work, health care services, transportation and delivery of goods and services or exercising Aboriginal or treaty rights.
“The rising spread of variants means we must take stronger measures to limit transmission and prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “As we continue to work to vaccinate those in the areas with the highest rates of transmission, everyone must adhere to public health measures and stay at home as much as possible to protect capacity in our health system and the health of thousands of Ontarians.”
The government also intends to implement the following public health and workplace safety measures effective Saturday, April 17, 2021 at 12:01 a.m.:
- Prohibit all outdoor social gatherings and organized public events, except for with members of the same household or one other person from outside that household who lives alone or a caregiver for any member of the household;
- Close all non-essential workplaces in the construction sector;
- Reduce capacity limits to 25 per cent in all retail settings where in-store shopping is permitted. This includes supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, indoor farmers’ markets, other stores that primarily sell food and pharmacies; and,
- Close all outdoor recreational amenities, such as golf courses, basketball courts, soccer fields, and playgrounds with limited exceptions.
In addition, effective Monday, April 19, 2021 at 12:01 a.m., the government is limiting the capacity of weddings, funerals, and religious services, rites or ceremonies to 10 people indoors or outdoors. Social gatherings associated with these services such as receptions are prohibited, except for with members of the same household or one other person from outside that household who lives alone. Drive-in services will be permitted.
All other public health and workplace safety measures for non-essential retail under the provincewide emergency brake (i.e., curbside pick-up and delivery only), will continue to apply.
To further support “hot spot” communities where COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted certain neighbourhoods, as part of Phase Two of the government’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan, the government is committed to dedicating 25 per cent of future vaccine allocations to the 13 public health regions with historic and ongoing high rates of death, hospitalization and COVID-19 transmission.
“As we see the trends in key health indicators deteriorate to levels far exceeding anything we have seen before, it is necessary to follow public health and workplace safety measures given this continued and rapid case growth,” said Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health. “By staying at home and limiting travel for essential purposes only, such as getting groceries or going to a medical appointment or to get vaccinated, we can reduce mobility and help interrupt transmission of this virus.”