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Ontario government expected to announce province-wide COVID-19 lockdown ahead of Christmas

doug ford on essential services

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is expected to announce sweeping new public health measures later today as the province tries to curb a climbing number of COVID-19 cases and increasing strain on hospitals.

Ford is scheduled to hold a news conference beginning at 1 p.m. ET at Queen’s Park. The premier’s office says he will be joined by the ministers of health and education, as well as the province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams. 

You’ll be able to watch the news conference live in this story.

Sources told CBC News on Sunday that new measures will include a 28-day lockdown for all parts of the province south of Sudbury.

The restrictions in these areas will look much as they did during Ontario’s initial shutdown in the spring, with only essential businesses remaining open. The specific list of closures and guidelines was still being fine-tuned over the weekend, the sources said.

Areas north of Sudbury, meanwhile, will move into a two-week lockdown, the sources said, and winter break for elementary students across Ontario could be extended by up to two weeks.

The measures come against a backdrop of modelling that forecasts that, under any scenario, Ontario could see up to 300 patients with cases of COVID-19 in intensive care units by the end of December, the sources said.

At the current rate of transmission of the novel coronavirus, that figure would grow to around 700 by the end of January. During the height of the first wave of the illness in Ontario, some 264 patients required intensive care.

Public health officials are scheduled to provide an update on official COVID-19 projections today at 11 a.m. ET.

The forecasts come as hospitals in some of Ontario’s hardest-hit regions are warning of unsustainable pressures on front-line staff and rippling effects throughout the health-care system. Last week, CBC Toronto reported nearly half of all ICU beds at one Scarborough hospital were taken up by COVID-19 patients.

In a joint statement over the weekend, hospitals in the Greater Toronto Area, along with the Ontario Hospital Association, said that health-care workers are “stressed and overstretched.”

Rising admissions of patients with COVID-19 mean that some hospitals have already been forced to postpone or cancel unrelated procedures, many of which were already put off in the spring.

“This level of strain is simply not sustainable for much longer,” the statement said, adding that a potential surge following the holiday season will only make things worse.

Hamilton enters lockdown

As of this morning, there are five public health units in the grey lockdown level of the province’s COVID-19 restrictions framework: Toronto, Peel Region, York Region, Windsor-Essex and Hamilton.

A previous four-week lockdown in Toronto and Peel that was set to expire today was extended last Friday. 

In lockdown zones, restaurants can offer only takeout and delivery service, and only retailers that have been deemed essential can stay open.

Ontario reported another 2,316 cases of COVID-19 yesterday — a sixth straight day with more than 2,000 new cases in the province — and 25 additional deaths of people with the illness.

The seven-day average of daily cases sits at 2,250, the highest it has been at any point during the pandemic. 

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