Ontario's top doctor eyes curfew to curb the spread of COVID-19 as cases surge
TORONTO -- As case numbers and deaths related to COVID-19 in Ontario climb to new heights, the province’s top doctor said that implementing a curfew to prevent transmission of the disease is on the table.
“That’s one of the things we will consider,” Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, said Thursday.
His comments come a day after Quebec announced it would introduce similar action starting this Saturday that would force residents to stay home from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. or risk a fine of up to $6,000.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Wednesday that he would be speaking with Premier Francois Legault about the enhanced measures and that a decision on the matter would be made “over the next few days.”
As has been the case throughout the pandemic, Ford said he would lean on Williams for guidance on any further restrictions. The province has generally been announcing any changes to public health measures on Fridays.
“I'll talk to the chief medical officer regarding any further restrictions,” Ford said. “But twofold, we have to continue practicing social distancing and washing our hands and making sure when possible stay at home.”
Before Wednesday, Ford had largely dismissed the idea of imposing such a stringent measure. Moreover, Williams said that curfews are not only difficult to implement, but even harder to enforce.
“How are you going to enforce a curfew? How are you going to make sure people are adhering to the curfew?” he asked.
For Quebec’s part, the province said residents will be required to provide proof of what they're doing if they are found outside of the house after curfew. A note from an employer, a receipt from a drug store, or a hospital card are just some examples of what the government will accept as evidence of an essential trip.
Quebec’s Deputy Premier and Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault told reporters Thursday that the province is putting its trust in the judgement of police officers to enforce its new measures.
Speaking to CTV News Toronto last month, Infectious Diseases Specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch, who also sits on the board of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine task force, said that curfews can be effective, but only when other public health restrictions are followed.
“I honestly don’t think it’s fair to look at curfews, in and of themselves, because it’s never the sole component to a plan,” he said at the time.
“Curfews would be at the end of the spectrum where the wheels have fallen off and you’re basically grasping at straws for anything to keep the virus under control because your healthcare system is getting stretched beyond capacity,” he said.
On Thursday, Ontario reported a record 3,519 new cases of COVID-19 and 86 deaths related to the disease.
Quebec, on the other hand, reported 2,519 new cases and 74 deaths.
With files from CTV News Montreal's Luca Caruso-Moro, Adam Kovac and Selena Ross.