Brant’s acting medical officer of health is hopeful a new stay-at-home order will help lower a “concerning” number of local COVID-19 cases.
“We need people to continue to make sacrifices,” said Dr. Elizabeth Urbantke, adding that a stay-at-home order in January helped high local numbers turn around. “I know it has been a very difficult year.”
Ontario issued the order on Wednesday to fight an alarming surge in COVID-19 cases fuelled by variants of the virus.
Premier Doug Ford said the order and provincewide emergency will take effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday and last for four weeks.
He said the province will declare its third state of emergency of the pandemic to invoke the new measures.
“Folks please, unless it’s for essential reasons, please stay home,” Ford said at a news conference. “We need to hunker down.”
Urbantke said local indicators have risen to some of the highest levels seen so far in the pandemic.
“Last week, we saw 144 cases of COVID-19 in Brant. This number of cases has not been seen since the peak of the second wave. Our incidence rate for the week ending April 4 was 106.55 and our percent positivity sat at 5.19 per cent.
“Forty per cent of cases from last week screened positive for a variant of concern. The provincial average for VOCs is sitting at 65 per cent of daily cases.
“It is safe to say that our local numbers are both concerning and trending in the wrong direction. Our focus needs to be to continue to make wise personal choices to protect ourselves and others.”
Ford said stores providing essential goods will remain open during the four-week period, but they will only be permitted to sell grocery and pharmacy items.
He said the new measures are necessary to fight the third wave of the pandemic that threatens to overwhelm the health-care system.
The new restrictions follow a decision last week to impose a four-week provincewide shutdown that put an end to short-lived indoor and outdoor dining and lowered capacity for retail establishments as well as indoor and outdoor gatherings.
Stores providing essential goods will remain open during the four-week period, but they will only be permitted to sell grocery and pharmacy items.
Sources told the CBC that only grocery stores and pharmacies would allow customers to shop indoors and big box retailers would be restricted to selling only grocery and pharmacy items in-store. Garden centres would also stay open, according to CBC’s sources.
Ontario reported 3,215 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and 17 more deaths linked to the virus. There were 1,095 new cases in Toronto, 596 in Peel Region, 342 in York Region, 225 in Ottawa and 187 in Durham Region.
Provincial public health chief Dr. David Williams is warning that the numbers could rise dramatically following the Easter long weekend, when testing numbers were down and gatherings likely.
During a news conference on Tuesday, Ford had hinted at the pending new restrictions, just days after his government imposed a province-wide shutdown.
“I think we made massive moves last week by basically shutting down the entire province,” Ford said. “That was huge, shutting down thousands and thousands of businesses, that I hate doing, but we’re going to have further restrictions moving forward, very, very quickly.”
Ford’s cabinet made the decision about the stay-at-home order during a meeting Tuesday night.
Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said the government should have issued the stay-at-home order last week when Ontario’s science advisers were calling for it.
“Doug Ford was the only person in Ontario who was surprised to learn that when you leave shopping malls open … that people in fact will go to those shopping malls,” Del Duca said.
The stay-at-home order comes days after top doctors in three COVID-19 hot spots – Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa – urged the province to impose tougher restrictions, including a stay-at-home order.
With files from Canadian Press