sudbury ontario

An Ontario mayor is asking for highway checkpoints to help curb non-essential travel

An Ontario politician is among those calling for further restrictions on the movement of residents who he believes are helping to spread COVID-19 to more northerly parts of the province.

Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger feels that amid the ongoing stay-at-home order — which is set to expire on Feb. 9 if not extended once more — things like highway checkpoints could help to keep virus numbers down.

He suggests a "bubble" segregating the northern, less populous portion of the province from more southerly hotspots like Toronto, especially with new variants that have reached as far north as Barrie, three hours southeast of Sudbury.

"We need to insulate our city for a short amount of time and by any means necessary stop the spread of the COVID-19 variant that is creeping north," Bigger said in a statement.

"We've seen a surge of cases in 2021 and regrettably most of those cases can be attributed to travel," he continued, adding that the Sudbury and District Health Unit has a caseload of "close to 100," currently sitting at 73 active infections among a population of just over 160,000 residents.

The mayor believes that Ontario Provincial Police-monitored checkpoints on arterial roads into the area would help to dissuade people from coming north unnecessarily, and has been asking Premier Doug Ford for "an action plan that will either stop or stymie traffic flow" up the main road into the city, Highway 69.

"Now is not the time for casual tourism," he reiterates. "We have seen the tragic consequences of travel in our city and it must stop immediately."

Ford himself has blamed heavy lockdown restrictions at least in part on people traveling too much both within the province and out of it, while some experts have pointed to the large number of outbreaks among essential workers who are not able to stay home.

Quebec has been using roadblock "awareness points" along highways to mitigate travel between regions since October, though there are no tickets or punishments associated.

New Brunswick, meanwhile, has been screening drivers along the Quebec border for proof of residence, and requires out-of-towners to pre-register and have appropriate documentation before they arrive.

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