Ontario announces stricter COVID-19 restrictions for five regions, Hamilton going into lockdown
TORONTO -- Ontario has announced stricter COVID-19 restrictions for five regions in the province, including for Hamilton, which will go into lockdown on Monday.
The government also announced that Toronto and Peel Region will remain in lockdown until at least Jan. 4. The lockdowns in Toronto and Peel Region were set to expire on Monday, but have been extended due to the rising number of new infections.
Nearly all non-essential businesses are forced to close when a region goes into the lockdown level.
On Monday at 12:01 a.m., Hamilton will move into lockdown, Brant County Health Unit and Niagara Region will move to the red zone, Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington Public Health are going to the orange zone.
Hamilton's rolling seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases has increased 40 per cent over the last week and now stands at 106.7.
"I know that some folks may not be happy about this but it is the reality of the pandemic we are in the middle of and we have to get this under control," Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberg said during a briefing late Friday afternoon. "If we all follow the rules we may very well do a great job of reducing the cases and allow us to get to a different place but for now we are going to follow the provinces advice and lockdown."
Meanwhile, Timiskaming Health Unit is moving to the yellow zone. Restrictions in Sudbury are loosening as the region moves to the green zone.
The news comes a day after Ontario recorded the most cases of COVID-19 in a single day, with more than 2,400 infections logged and hospitalizations for the disease continue to climb.
"In the areas that are locked down right now that are expiring on Monday, I can tell you they won't be expiring," Premier Doug Ford told reporters during an emergency meeting on Friday. "We are going to continue on with the lockdowns within those regions and will have additional information on Monday for the balance of the province."
As of Friday, there are 877 patients in hospital with COVID-19, with 261 patients being treated in intensive care. This sparked a call from the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) for “immediate action” to curb the spread of infection.
Further restrictions to be announced Monday
In response to the growing case count, Ford said on Thursday he would not make a "snap decision" on whether to put more regions into a lockdown despite the calls by the OHA.
"There's a lot of things to consider," Ford told reporters at the time. "The worst thing we could do is rush up there and make a snap decision in a heartbeat. We have to make sure that if we do make this decision, is it going to be two weeks, is it going to be three weeks, is it going to be 28 days for a full cycle?"
On Friday, the premier said he will be hosting another emergency meeting over the weekend and will announce any further COVID-19 measures on Monday afternoon at 1 p.m.
"The trends we're seeing throughout Ontario are very, very concerning," Ford said. "I want to listen to what's happening on the ground, within the hospitals, within ICU units."
NDP leader Andrea Horwath criticized Ford for waiting days to make the decision, saying that the longer he "dithers and delays, the more out of control this pandemic gets."
"The foot dragging has got to end," she told reporters. "Telling people to stay tuned for more news next week just isn't cutting it. Announcing that you'll make an announcement later is not in fact the action that we need right now."
Toronto and Peel Region continue to report the highest number of new cases on a daily basis, with infections regularly reaching the triple digits.
With files from CP24's Chris Fox