Ontario moving Windsor-Essex and York Region into lockdown on Monday
TORONTO -- Ontario is moving Windsor-Essex and York Region into lockdown, while increasing pandemic restrictions for five other regions across the province.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said Friday that the move was necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19 in areas where cases have surged in recent weeks.
The lockdowns - which take effect Monday - will help ensure schools can stay open and hospital capacity can be protected, she said.
"Moving a region into Grey-Lockdown is not an easy decision, but it is one we needed to make in order to help stop the spread of the virus and safeguard the key services we rely on," Elliott said in a statement.
Five other regional health units will see new restrictions imposed under the province's colour-coded, tiered pandemic response framework.
Middlesex-London, Simcoe Muskoka, and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph will move into the red "control" zone.
The Eastern Ontario Health Unit will move to orange "restrict, while Leeds, Grenville and Lanark will move to yellow "protect."
Toronto and Peel Region were moved into the lockdown category last month.
Elliott said it "remains crucial" that all residents continue to follow public health advice to reduce the spread of COVID-19, particularly as the holidays approach.
The province reported 1,848 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, and 45 new deaths due to the virus.
It said 469 new cases were in Toronto, 386 in Peel Region, 205 in York Region, and 106 in Windsor-Essex.
The Windsor-Essex public health unit has ordered all schools in the region to close starting Monday, and several church leaders in the area have announced a suspension of in-person services.
The latest lockdowns will last at least 28 days.
Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti said Friday that he respected the provincial decision but that he would be advocating for help directed at small businesses that will be forced to close.
He also urged people to follow public health rules.
"This move by the province of Ontario does not let us off the hook," he said. "Almost 50 per cent of cases in York Region are the result of close contact (family, friends and work colleagues) transmission."
The new restrictions were announced ahead of an update expected from the province on its vaccine distribution plans.
The government has said immunizations will begin Tuesday after 6,000 doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine arrive in the province.
Retired gen. Rick Hiller, who is leading Ontario's vaccine task force, has said the University Health Network in Toronto and the Ottawa Hospital will administer the first shots to health-care workers.
An additional 90,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine expected later this month in the province are to be provided to 13 hospitals across Ontario.
Hillier said the province also expects to receive between 30,000 and 85,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine by the new year, pending its approval by Health Canada.
On Thursday, updated pandemic projections showed that Ontario could see 2,500 daily cases of COVID-19 by the end of the month if the virus keeps spreading at the current rate.
If the growth rate accelerates from the current 1.5 per cent to five per cent, Ontario could see up to 10,000 cases a day by the first week of January, the projections showed.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams urged people to heed calls to stay home in order to curb rising infections.
Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press
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