April 1, 2021
By Nick Parker and Talha Hashmani
Updated: April 1, 2021 at 7:30 p.m.
The Government of Ontario announced today that a province-wide “emergency brake” will be coming into effect this weekend, in an effort to curb the province’s rising number of COVID-19 cases.
Premier Doug Ford asserted in today’s press conference, that the new measures will not include a stay-at-home order. But various restrictive measures will be put in place effective Saturday at 12:01 a.m.
“We have the toughest restrictions in North America,” said Ford. “We are throwing everything we can at this virus.”
Some of these measures are similar to those put in place at the start of the year, from no indoor and outdoor dining to a limit on outdoor gatherings to a maximum of five people.
Essential retail stores will see a 50 per cent capacity limit, while non-essential retail will be limited to 25 per cent. Religious services will also be limited to a 15 per cent capacity.
Ford noted the impacts which the last stay-at-home order had on adults and children, emphasizing the importance of going out and staying active during this wave of restrictive measures.
“As the premier, it falls on me. I have to make the decisions,” said Ford.
But unlike the previous stay-at-home order, schools continue to remain open despite Ford’s assertions that more younger people are ending up in ICU beds. At least 40 per cent of ICU patients, according to Ford, are younger people. Though he has not defined what age group these young people specifically fall into.
According to data provided on the Government of Ontario’s website, the number of ICU cases has increased from 284 to 396 since the start of March.
Data from a study by Science Table shows that out of the percentage of weekly COVID-19 ICU admissions between March 15-21, individuals aged 0-29 made up about 3 per cent of overall admissions. About 40 per cent of the admissions were of individuals aged 0-59.
Data from the federal government shows that for Canada-wide ICU admissions, individuals aged 0-29 represent only 3.9 per cent of overall admissions. When compared to Ford’s emphasis that younger people make up a large portion of ICU patients, this number suggests that nationally the number is quite low. It also underlines the question over the closure of schools across the province. Schools remain a top priority, according to Ford.
When asked about the effectiveness of lockdowns, Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table, said that previous lockdowns have brought the number of COVID-19 cases down.
For now, the provincial government is assuring Ontarians that there are “reasons to be optimistic” and to look forward to a summer that “we can all enjoy.”
According to Christine Elliott, the Minister of Health, the provincial government is planning on using the lockdown “to vaccinate even more Ontarians, pending supplies.” As for the vaccine rollout plan, Ford said that 350 additional pharmacies will be providing vaccines as of Saturday.
According to Ford, 2.3 million vaccines have been delivered so far.
For many in Ontario’s COVID-19 hotspots, strict lockdown measures have been imposed since the start of the pandemic. The province’s previous stay-at-home order was announced near the start of the year.
“We need more time. We need to close the gap from where we are to where we will be when the vaccines will be delivered in June,” said Ford.