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Ontario heading into province-wide lockdown

By: Courtney Bachar, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, YGK News Staff

Kingston and the rest of Ontario is heading into a province-wide shutdown beginning Dec. 26.

All regions in southern Ontario will be in lockdown for a period of  28 days, while regions in northern Ontario will remain in lockdown for  14 days.

The shutdown comes after Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced Monday  COVID-19 numbers are continuing to accelerate at an “alarming rate.”

“Unfortunately, despite the restrictions, we’ve seen growing numbers  of people travelling between regions in Ontario,” says Ford, noting the  virus is spreading rapidly from high-outbreak areas to areas with fewer  cases.

Ford says hospitals are filling up more each day, with a 70 per cent  increase in hospitalizations and an 80 per cent increase in ICU  admissions in the past few weeks, adding 75 per cent of the intensive  care unit beds, at any given time, are taken up by people with other  emergencies, such as car accidents or heart attacks.

“Above all, we need to preserve capacity in our ICUs and our  hospitals,” he says, noting hospitals are on the verge of needing to  cancel more elective surgeries if numbers continue to increase.

Ford says while the vaccine has started to trickle in, due to the limited supply, it will be months before mass immunization.

“In the meantime, we need to do everything in our power to protect  hospitals and the most vulnerable,” he says, noting the difficult action  of a province-wide shutdown is, without a doubt, necessary to save  lives and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed in the coming weeks.

“Make no mistake, thousands of lives are at stake,” he says. “This  province-wide shutdown is a temporary but one-time measure in response  to the exceptional circumstances we’re facing.”

Schools will also be affected by the shutdown as students will return  to school on Jan. 4 virtually across the province with a plan for  students from kindergarten to Grade 8 to return to in-person learning on  Jan. 11, and high school students to return to in-person learning on  Jan. 25.

While Ford says schools are not part of the problem of COVID in  communities, the extended closure is out of an “abundance of caution.”

“These decisions are difficult but they are absolutely critical,” says Ford.

As of the last day of school on Dec. 18, there were 51 active cases  in Durham District School Board schools, and another 38 active cases in  the Durham Catholic board. In total, of the 4,828 schools across the  province, 976 had active cases as of Dec. 18.

Ontario reported 2,123 new infections Monday, down from the 2,316 cases reported Sunday.

Durham reported 160 new cases over the weekend with the current total  at 911 active cases. There are 877 in home isolation and 34 people in  the hospital, 10 of which are in the ICU.

In Oshawa, there are currently 189 cases with 21 new cases reported  over the weekend. There are 183 people in home isolation and six people  in hospital with one in the ICU.

Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott says despite  significant investments to support the province’s hospital system,  hospitalizations continue to increase and more needs to be done.

“We continue to see sharp increases in hospitalizations and ICU  occupancy is reaching concerning levels,” says Elliott, noting the  province-wide shutdown was a difficult but necessary step.

“This urgent and immediate action must be taken to prevent our  healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed, to protect our long-term  care residents and to save lives.”

Elliott says with the arrival of the vaccine, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

“The tunnel grows brighter every day, but we must remain vigilant,”  she says. “I strongly encourage everyone to stay home and continue to  follow public health measures. We’ve flattened the curve before and we  can do it again.”

Just today, the province also announced that all passenger road tests would be cancelled until January 9th for Northern Ontario and January 23rd for all public health regions in Southern Ontario. “DriveTest centres will remain open for essential indoor services, such as knowledge tests, with capacity limits and COVID-19 preventative measures in place. The ministry will also continue to offer commercial road testing and other commercial vehicle services during the shutdown to ensure the continued safe movement of essential goods and services,” the statement said.

For a full list of shutdown measures, visit www.ontario.ca/page/covid-19-response-framework-keeping-ontario-safe-and-open.

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