All of Ontario will go into lockdown on Boxing Day as the province tries to bring soaring COVID-19 cases under control.
The lockdown will remain in place for southern Ontario until Jan. 23, but will lift for northern Ontario on Jan. 9.
Premier Doug Ford said the virus is spreading rapidly from areas with a high number of cases to areas with fewer cases, and the province needs to preserve capacity in its health-care system.
“This difficult action is without a doubt necessary to save lives and prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed in the coming weeks,” he said.
“Make no mistake, thousands of lives are at stake right now.”
The lockdown means schools across the province will move to online learning from Jan. 4 to Jan. 8, after which students will return to in-person learning depending on their location and grade level.
Child-care centres across the province will remain open during the lockdown.
The measures also mean all non-essential businesses must close, and essential businesses that remain open will have strict capacity limits in place.
No indoor public events or social gatherings will be allowed, except with members of the same household.
The lockdown also means Ontarians are advised to stay home “to the fullest extent possible.”
The announcement of the sweeping lockdown came hours after new projections indicated that Ontario’s ability to control the spread of COVID-19 was “precarious.”
The data by the province’s health advisors concluded that tough lockdowns lasting a month or more could cut the number of daily cases to less than 1,000.
Ontario reported 2,123 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and 17 more deaths related to the virus.
Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of the province’s COVID-19 science advisory table, said anything less than a four-week lockdown will not work, based on the experience of other jurisdictions.
“Hard lockdown, a very stringent lockdown, with very strong communication, of four to six weeks can reduce case numbers in Ontario,” he said. “The duration of lockdown is very important.”
Brown said that if Ontario’s COVID-19 case rate continues to grow between one to three per cent, the province will have 3,000 to 5,000 daily cases by the end of January.
If the province sees “substantial growth” of seven per cent, Ontario will have 30,000 daily cases.
The new projections show that under all scenarios the province will see 300 intensive care unit beds filled within 10 days — double the 150-bed threshold where surgeries must be cancelled.
Under a worst-case-scenario, ICU occupancy could hit 1,500 beds by mid-January.
The data also shows that deaths due to COVID-19 will continue to increase, especially in long-term care where there have been 633 resident deaths since Sept. 1, and 100 over the past week.
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