Over the past couple of weeks, the increased deliveries have allowed Dr. Paul’s vaccination team to hit new weekly highs, with over 55 percent of those over 18 having received their first dose. With deliveries expected to increase even more, residents 18 years old and older can now book their appointments at www.ontario.ca/bookvaccine or by calling 1-888-999-6488 if you have a red and white OHIP card or need assistance. Strategies are being rolled out to add Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to our pharmacy programs. Over 40 local pharmacies have been approved and should be added over the next couple of weeks as provisions are completed. Our local hospitals, mobile units, and primary care clinics round out the program to provide many access points to receive your vaccination. High-risk health care workers and at-high-risk patients, including those undergoing cancer treatments, can book their second doses of the vaccine. Check the Eastern Ontario Health Unit site at www.eohu.ca for complete details.
In consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, our government released its Roadmap to Reopen, a three-step plan to safely and cautiously reopen the province. It is based on the province-wide vaccination rate and improvements in public health and hospital capacity. While we continue to progress, Ontarians deserve to know the path forward and the necessary targets to achieve a steady and safe reopening. While many examples exist worldwide, the United Kingdom is of particular interest, with a similar first-dose vaccination strategy and vaccination rates just ahead of ours. They opened up faster, only to be hit with a fourth wave and the corresponding setback. We benefit from seeing the results of theirs and other national strategies, and we have structured our plan to try and avoid their problems. As defined by the World Health Organization, the variants of global concern are proving to be highly contagious, requiring much more attention than the original virus. It is for this reason that Premier Ford has repeatedly asked the Prime Minister to secure our borders. Thousands of people are crossing our land borders every week, and a third of all air travellers are not following the mandatory protocols. The UK has banned travel from over 40 countries, and we can’t enforce the rules for the two countries that Canada has specified. We have data that guides us on the restrictions needed to protect us from the original virus. Still, the new variants of global concern are much more contagious, and there is very little data available.
Due to the continuing success of Ontario’s vaccine, effective May 22, the province will reopen outdoor recreational amenities with restrictions, and outdoor gathering limits will expand to five people. For this Victoria Day weekend, residents will be able to participate in outdoor activities at golf courses, tennis courses, skateboarding parks, marinas, and docking facilities with restrictions. You can find complete details at www.Ontario.ca/reopen.
The reopening of our schools to in-class learning is continually under review. At this time, the science table has not reached a consensus on the timing. At current vaccination levels, members speculate that the return to school could increase the spread of the virus by 11 percent, jeopardizing the progress made so far. The return to school is a priority, and plans are being developed to vaccinate all students 12 and older in June. It is an aggressive target, but we need to vaccinate as many as possible and get our students back in school. Child care experts all agree that it is critical for their social and mental health development.
Remember to maintain personal spacing, wear a mask, and stay home, except to pick up essential items.
MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry