By Mike Williscraft
It’s the Christmas gift nobody wanted, but an Ontario-wide lockdown was issued by Premier Doug Ford on Monday.
Noting the measure came after exhaustive discussion with medical experts, Ford said the measure was needed now to avoid “catastrophic” outcomes from escalating COVID-19 numbers.
Northern Ontario faces a 14-day lockdown, while the southern portion of the province gets 28 days.
At a Monday press conference, Ford addressed areas of the province with low COVID numbers, citing experience showing travel from higher infection areas pushed numbers up. This creates the need to protect those areas with the full lockdown, said Ford.
In addition to all non-essential services being closed – with allowances for curbside pick-up for restaurants and retailers – schools will also have impacts extended beyond the Christmas break.
Elementary schools will restart Jan. 11 for Kindergarten-Grade 8. High schools will restart remote learning Jan. 11 with in-class learning restarting Jan. 25.
“This is an extremely difficult time for many people in our community, and I hope all of us will be kind and look out for each other. No one wanted to implement these decisions, but the surge in cases and hospitalization has necessitated it: the advice of Ontario’s hospitals and medical officers ultimately guides these provincial decisions,” said Niagara West MPP Sam Oosterhoff.
“I understand the fear and frustration there is surrounding all of this, and it is definitely not where any of us
wanted to be at this time.”
Ford noted that a new grant program is being rolled out for small business with $10,000-$20,000 being available for those suffering negative impacts from the lockdown.
A major impact will be felt for places of worship over the holidays with the lockdown setting allowable capacities at 10 people.