In a press conference on January 12, the Ontario government declared the second province-wide state of emergency in response to the growing number of Covid-19 cases. The sweeping stay-at-home order went into effect at midnight on Thursday, January 14.
“The latest modelling data shows that Ontario is in a crisis and, with the current trends, our hospital ICUs will be overwhelmed in a few short weeks with unthinkable consequences,” said Ontario Premier Doug Ford.
Premier Ford went on to emphasize the importance of taking immediate action and following the stay-at-home order to ensure the safety of Ontario residents.
“We need people to only go out only for essential trips to pick up groceries or go to medical appointments,” continued Ford. “By doing the right thing and staying home, you can stay safe and save lives.”
Infection modelling predicts occupation of nearly 1,000 ICU beds for Covid-19 cases by early February, which could potentially overwhelm hospitals. Some days have shown more than a seven per cent rise in cases, with nearly 3,000 new cases every day.
Adding to the concern is the new variant of the virus, SARS-CoV-2-B117. Often referred to as the U.K. variant, B-117 is a more contagious strain of Covid-19.
Cases of the new B-117 strain have been found in Ontario residents with no travel history, indicating community transmission. Data indicates the onslaught of cases is due to the lead-up during the holiday season when restrictions were eased, and people were travelling between jurisdictions.
The state of emergency authorizes provincial officers to inspect adherence to the new rules and ticket individuals who are in violation of them.
The regions of Peel, Toronto, York, Windsor-Essex, and Hamilton will not return to in-person school learning and childcare facilities until February 10. Elementary school learning will return to in-person instruction in other approved regions on January 22.
This week, York Center MPP Roman Baber wrote a two-page open letter to the Ford government outlining the negative effects the lockdown is having on society, such as the impact on small businesses, social isolation impacts, and more—comparing the severity of them to the Covid-19 infection. The efforts resulted in Baber being ousted from caucus on Friday.
“By spreading misinformation, he is undermining the tireless efforts of our frontline healthcare workers at this critical time, and he is putting people at risk,” stated Premier Ford. “I will not jeopardize a single Ontarian’s life by ignoring public health advice. There is no room for political ideology in our fight against Covid-19—rather, our response has been and will always be driven by evidence and data.”
Baber addressed his removal from caucus on Twitter later the same day, writing, “I don’t regret speaking out for millions of lives and livelihoods decimated by Public Health, I serve the public.”
Baber went on to discuss his thoughts surrounding the state of emergency, believing it to be unfounded and harmful to society.
“The Lockdown is grounded in false public health narrative, poor planning, and bad data,” stated Baber. “While Doug only cares about re-election, Lockdowns are killing more than saving. I couldn’t watch the suffering anymore. I hope I encouraged other professionals to speak out.”
The lockdown is set to remain in place for at least 28 days, when measures will then be re-evaluated. More information, along with detailed listings of permitted activities and essential businesses can be found on the Ontario Covid-19 webpage.