ONTARIO – Premier Doug Ford announced on Monday, Dec. 21 that the province would be entering a lockdown on Boxing Day, Saturday, Dec. 26 at 12:01 a.m. in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19 over the holidays.
“It will be months until we have mass immunization,” Ford said. “In the meantime we need to do everything in our power to protect our hospitals and our most vulnerable. We need a runway for the vaccine to roll out. That’s why, after consulting with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, listening to hospital CEOs and other health experts and extensive discussions at the cabinet table and caucus throughout the weekend, I am announcing today that Ontario will enter a province wide shutdown . . .”
“This difficult action is without a doubt necessary to save lives and prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed in the coming weeks,” he added. “As Premier, it falls on me to make the difficult, but necessary decisions.”
Ford asked that during the lockdown that all residents only leave the house when necessary, such as doing groceries, doctors appointments or going to work if work from home is not possible.
Individuals who live alone may consider exclusive contact with one other household.
Essential businesses such as grocery stores and pharmacies will be open, but at reduced capacity, to a maximum of 50 per cent of total capacity. Big box stores that sell groceries will be limited to 25 per cent capacity for indoor shopping. All non-essential businesses will be open for curbside pick-up, drive thru, and delivery only.
Ford said that the lockdown would last two weeks in northern Ontario and 28 days in southern Ontario, but did not rule out the possibility of the lockdown being extended past that time.
Elementary and high school students will also have their winter breaks extended to Jan. 11, when they will return to virtual learning only. In person classes are expected to resume on Jan. 25.
“These are decisions that are extremely difficult, but they are absolutely critical, and I know how much our businesses are struggling,” Ford said. “We will be launching the new Ontario Small Business Support grant which will provide a minimum of $10,000 and up to $20,000 to eligible small business owners to help them through this challenging time.”
Cornwall Mayor Bernadette Clement said that she would be closely reviewing the Premier’s announcement, and was already getting calls from residents seeking more information.
“I do know that this is going to create some stress for families,” she said. “It is going to be hard to deal with at this particular time. What I will say, is that there is a horizon,” Clement added referring to the COVID-19 vaccines that were being delivered to Ontario.