Ford warns Ontarians to 'be prepared' for possible lockdown amid surging wave of COVID-19 cases
TORONTO -- Premier Doug Ford is warning Ontarians to 'be prepared' for another possible COVID-19 lockdown as the government is considering all measures to cope with a surge of third wave infections.
The premier made the comments during a news conference on Tuesday, saying that he’s “extremely” worried about the direction the province is heading.
“I'm extremely concerned with the situation that we're seeing and the numbers going up,” he told reporters. “Everything is on the table right now, so folks, be prepared. I’m asking you don’t make plans for Easter.”
“I won't hesitate to lock things down if we have to. I did it before, I'll do it again.”
The Ford government has been slammed by health experts and politicians for not taking immediate measures and for not rolling back reopening plans to curb the spread of the disease and stop the third wave.
Just last week, the government loosened restrictions in regions, including Toronto and Peel, which are in the grey-lockdown zone of the provinces reopening framework, to allow outdoor fitness classes.
Personal care services are also scheduled to reopen on April 12.
The premier told reporters on Tuesday his decisions have been based on the advice from local health experts and Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams.
With the advice of medical officers of health, Ford said his government decided to start gradually bringing the province out of the stay-at-home order and into the reopening framework in February.
“We were hitting 1,000 cases, things were looking a little rosy, and I took the advice from the chief medical officer,” he said. I will continue to take the advice. I won't hesitate, believe me, to lock things down so we can protect the ICU capacities of the hospitals.”
“Nothing is more important than our health.”
He said local medical officers of health have the ability to advise and implement an “emergency brake” to move their region into a stricter part of province’s framework and target transmission risks in the community.
“Everyone was on the same page,” he said. “Make no mistake, we have to be cautious, and that's why we have the emergency break available.”
Pulling the emergency brake forces all non-essential businesses to close.
Ontario health officials reported more than 2,300 new COVID-19 infections on Tuesday, marking the sixth consecutive day in which case numbers have remained above the 2,000 mark.
Anthony Dale, the president of the Ontario Hospital Association, is warning that hospitals in the province could face a new surge in patient transfers and cancelled surgeries amid the third wave.
On Tuesday, the province reported its highest number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations since early February. Currently, there are at least 1,090 patients in hospital due to COVID-19 and 387 are being treated in intensive care.