Ontario's new lockdown measures will be like nothing we've seen before
Shutting down construction sites, closing manufacturing plants and possibly imposing a curfew are all options being discussed at the highest level of the Ontario government this weekend.
An announcement and new modelling was expected on Monday morning, but that has been pushed back until at least Tuesday at this point.
Cabinet members, government officials and medical advisers were to spend the weekend going over available data and possible options, as a final decision had not been made on Saturday.
Prior to Christmas, Premier Doug Ford ruled out imposing a curfew, but he now says all options are on the table. While he isn’t fond of the idea, it is being debated as to whether the measure would have any impact because there are opposing views within the medical community.
If manufacturing is ordered to close, the order will not be a blanket one. Food processing and some supply chain operations — possibly auto parts and assembly — would be allowed to remain open. And construction sites, which fared well in the pandemic’s first wave, have seen a number of outbreaks in recent weeks. So part of the debate is how much of the construction could be shut down.
New home construction could be especially problematic given that people are expecting to move into homes on a specific date and closing the entire industry could leave some with no place to live.
In conversation with those familiar with the data shaping the modelling that will be presented to cabinet, the picture is bleak.
This is about more than rising case counts, though that is a factor, this is about rising death counts, hospitalizations and ICU admissions. As of Saturday morning, 23% of ICU beds across the province were taken up by COVID-19 patients, in some areas it was 40% or more.
There are roughly 1,700 ICU beds and 400 of them are taken up by COVID patients. We can’t simply add more. There is specialized equipment to buy, specialized staff that are in short supply.
Those going over the data say it is not only about where the province is now, but where we will be in two to three weeks. They believe the current lockdown measures have worked, but not to the extent they hoped.
They also are concerned about where the new British variant of COVID will take us. The British variant spreads 56% faster than what we’ve been dealing with, meaning more cases, which inevitably leads to more hospitalizations, more ICU admissions, more deaths.
As for school children, there were 85 between the ages of four and eight who tested positive on Jan. 8. A month earlier, that number was at 41. The increase in school-age children started to rise in line with the increase in community spread and has now taken off.
There are many people opposed to the current lockdown and who bristle at the thought of tougher measures. If you are opposed to lockdowns, you’ve lost the argument with the public, with the political leaders and within the scientific community in Ontario.
In a Maru/BLUE poll released Friday, Ontario residents were more supportive of increased restrictions than other parts of the country.
When asked to agree or disagree with a series of proposed measures, 70% in Ontario said they supported a rule that would say: “People can only leave home for essential reasons such as grocery shopping, getting medications, and being vaccinated.”
Support for closing all restaurants was at 85%, all houses of worship 83%, all but essential offices 80%, and closing schools had 70% support.
Only half of Ontario residents support the idea of a curfew, but 59% back the closing of ski hills and 58% support rules requiring masks everywhere outside of the home “even outdoors when walking.”
I don’t know which of these measures, not already in force, will be brought into play by the Ford government, but whatever is done, it is likely to have strong public support.
As the old saying goes: The public gets what the public wants and this coming week, it will get more lockdown measures, for good or for bad.torontosun