The Ford government says Toronto and Peel Region will remain in the provincial lockdown category until January 4, 2021 when the situation will be reassessed.
The province says the city of Hamilton is being moved into the lockdown category starting Monday after noting that the number of hospitalizations in the region have more than doubled in the last two weeks.
The current lockdown restrictions for Toronto and Peel were set to expire on Monday but Premier Doug Ford said those measures would be extended prior to entering a meeting with provincial health officials.
The emergency meeting with Health Minister Christine Elliott, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams and the province’s hospital leaders was to “discuss next steps to break the concerning trends in cases and hospitals in our province.”
Ford said he will discuss the additional lockdown measures at 1 p.m. on Monday.
“The trends that we are seeing throughout Ontario are very, very concerning and nothing is more important to our government than making sure we protect the health and safety of each and every person,” he said. “We are going to have an emergency meeting over the weekend and we will make a decision on Monday.”
The province said it will also provide updated virus projections on Monday, ahead of Ford’s announcement.
The province also announced the following public health regions will move from their current level in the framework to the following levels effective Monday:
Brant County Health Unit.
Niagara Region Public Health.
Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health.
Timiskaming Health Unit.
Public Health Sudbury & Districts.
All other public health regions will remain at their current level.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath slammed Ford for not announcing new pandemic measures sooner.
“The guy drags his feet, he’s not prepared to make urgent decisions,” she said Friday. “Ford has no urgency, he doesn’t get what’s happening and I think it’s pretty clear that he has to get his act together and do something.”
Green party Leader Mike Schreiner urged Ford to take action now and introduce new restrictions.
“We are at a tipping point and need urgent action to prevent more illness and deaths,” he said. “COVID will not take the weekend off.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory said he understands and supports Ford’s decision to keep the city in lockdown past Monday.
On Thursday, Ford said he was particularly concerned about surging infections in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) but provided few specifics on measures being considered other than to say a curfew wasn’t one of them.
“There’s a wide variety of items (and) discussions going on over the last couple days, matter of fact, they’re going on constantly,” he said. “But there’s a lot of things to consider. The worst thing we could do is rush out there and make a snap decision in a heartbeat.”
The Regional Chair along with the eight mayors of Durham Region issued a statement indicating their preference to remain in the current red zone.
“Let me reiterate that we fully support the protection of our public’s health. We will do whatever is needed to help flatten the curve—provided the data confirms it for our region,” read the statement issued by chair John Henry.
“However, recent reports, about Durham possibly moving into a lockdown, were not driven by Durham Region or any of the eight local-tier mayors. We were not consulted, nor given the opportunity to comment. Our region is vastly different from others in the GTHA …the needs of our residents and business owners are vastly different from surrounding regions.”
On Thursday, the province reported a daily record high of 2,432 cases — marking the third straight day that overall cases topped 2,000. The seven-day average for new cases has also reached a record 2,026.
Toronto, Peel Region and York Region are currently under a lockdown, but Toronto and Peel are nearing the end of their 28-day lockdown after it went into effect on Nov. 23.
The Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) said the government needs to implement a four-week lockdown in every public health unit with 40 or more COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people.
That would mean 11 public health units — including the hot spots of Toronto and Peel Region, as well as Simcoe Muskoka and Middlesex-London — would be affected.
The OHA said the province’s current lockdown restrictions should be “rapidly” reassessed by independent experts to determine if additional measures are required.
“The situation is extremely serious,” it said.
“We are now in the holiday season and if members of the public choose to ignore public health measures and gather outside their households, the consequences risk overwhelming Ontario’s hospitals. Every health-care system has its breaking point.”
The Ontario Medical Association also asked the province to impose a lockdown of the entire GTHA until after New Year’s.