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Ontario back in COVID lockdown

The Ontario Legislative Building in Toronto is seen in April 2017. (Provided photo — DXR, via Wikimedia Commons)

While New York and other U.S. states are easing restrictions after the pandemic’s winter surge, COVID-19 cases are spiking globally — including in our neighbor to the north.

On Saturday the Canadian province of Ontario went into a massive shutdown intended to slow the quick spread of new coronavirus strains, and some top doctors are calling for even tighter restrictions. The medical officers for the cities of Toronto and Ottawa, as well as the Toronto suburb Peel Region, urged their provincial counterpart Sunday to issue a full stay-at-home order, according to the CBC.

Peel Region ordered all schools closed for in-person learning. Toronto has not done so.

Still, the measures Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced Thursday ban all indoor public events and gatherings except for retail and grocery stores. There will be a 25% capacity limit in retail stores and 50% in supermarkets. Hair salons will be closed and there will be no indoor or patio dining. The measures will continue for at least four weeks.

“We’re now fighting a new enemy,” Ford said. The new variants are far more dangerous than before. They spread faster and they do more harm than the virus we were fighting last year. Young people are ending up in hospital,” Ford said.

Ontario on Monday reported 5,979 new cases of COVID-19 and 22 more deaths in the prior two days.

Quebec issued new tight new restrictions in five municipalities near Quebec City Monday evening, which included closing schools, according to CBC.

Hot spots like Toronto, Canada’s largest city, have already largely been on lockdown since November, but popular patio dining reopened there recently. They were not open for long.

The new restrictions across the province come after months of unheeded warnings from health experts. Dr. Andrew Morris, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Toronto and the medical director of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at Sinai-University Health Network, called the Ford government “incompetent.”

“Don’t get me started,” Morris said. He said Ontario’s COVID situation “reflects a total and absolute abdication of responsibility for the health and well-being of our public.”

“It is a tragic and unequivocal failure, fertilized by repeated rejection of scientific evidence,” he said.

Canada has been well behind the U.S. on COVID vaccinations. Just 1.9% of Canadians are fully vaccinated, versus 19% of Americans. In Canada, 15% of people have had at least one dose, compared with 32% of Americans. British Columbia just launched its online vaccine booking website today, whereas New York’s launched months ago.

Canada is ramping its vaccinations, however, and all adults who want a vaccine are expected to get at least one dose by July.

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