three week lockdown

Three week lockdown could be coming to Ontario and here's what that means

Health experts in Ontario are now asking that the province put its colour-coded reopening framework on hold for some regions and instead plunge them into a full three-week lockdown to mitigate the spread of new virus variants.

The suggestion comes from the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, which is also the body known for releasing grave modelling projections of COVID numbers that haven't really come to fruition.

(A member was also recently booted from the panel for taking a beach vacation to the Dominican Republic over the winter holidays, when residents were being told to stay home as much as possible at all costs under the full provincial shutdown and stay-at-home order, but that's beside the point.)

The group is asking that all regions along the Golden Horseshoe — the densely populated area of Southern Ontario between Toronto and Niagara — be put under an "early and hard" lockdown including the closure of all "non-essential" businesses and schools.

Advisory table Scientific Director Dr. Peter Juni believes that even strict adherence to the health measures outlined for the coloured zones will not be enough to evade the "third wave," which the Ontario Hospital Association stated we are already in and which Juni says is rolling out as predicted as far as new case numbers, of which there are 1,553 today.

"To make it without a renewed lockdown in the situation we're in, that's next to impossible," the epidimiologist told CTV News, adding that the new variants are about 40 per cent more contagious and have "continued to grow merrrily," especially in the Golden Horseshoe.

Some studies suggest they may also be more deadly.

"If we want to get them under control and just gain a little bit of time for the vaccine rollout, then we just have to do things slightly differently... it's probably inevitable."

Juni says that there is no reason to panic and that he's simply "thinking out loud" based on his expertise, but that the data indicates this one final lockdown is necessary to curb transmission to the liking of health officials.

He also called current lockdown measures "leaky" as far as region-hopping is concerned and "too soft," advocating for something more prohibitive, as has been done in other countries.

York Region Medical Officer of Health Karim Kurji is among those who have already expressed opposition to the panel's recommendation, telling CP24 this afternoon that "a lockdown isn't really the way to go" and would cause much greater harm than benefit.

As of Wednesday, it's been one year since the province of Ontario first declared a state of emergency and began ordering business closures and implementing lockdown restrictions. 

The majority of the Golden Horseshoe to which Juni refers is currently in the Red-Control zone of reopening, meaning that bars and restaurants can host 10 patrons for indoor dining, gyms can be open with stringent measures, non-essential retail capacity limits are upped to 50 per cent, and gatherings of 5 indoors/35 outdoors are permitted.

While Niagara, Hamilton, Waterloo, Halton, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph, York, Durham and Simcoe-Muskoka are in red, Toronto and Peel are in Grey-Lockdown, in which hospitality establishments remain closed save for pickup and delivery, gyms have been shuttered for 22 weeks, and non-essential retail is capped at 25 per cent.

The three-week lockdown would be more severe than grey, and more similar to the first extreme lockdown we saw in March 2020, Juni says.

The advice comes just as Mayor John Tory and Doug Ford are working towards allowing bars and restaurants to open their patios to at least try and recoup months of losses while still in grey. 

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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