Today, the Ontario government announced the province will enter a second provincewide shutdown starting Saturday December 26 at 12:01 am. A provincewide lockdown is needed to reduce COVID transmission, prevent people travelling between regions and preserve health system capacity. The five public health units in the north will be in lockdown for two weeks, while Southern Ontario will be in lockdown for four weeks. The Chief Medical Officer of Health will be monitoring the data and will assess if it is safe to lift the restrictions or if they need to be extended.
On advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Ontarians are being asked to stay home as much as possible and limit trips outside the home to purchasing food, medication, and medical appointments. Employers are asked to allow workers to work remotely, if possible.
Shutdown measures include but are not limited to:
In addition, the province announced that all publicly funded and private elementary and secondary schools will move to remote learning when students return from winter break on January 4, 2021. School located in the north can resume in-person instruction on January 11, 2021. In the rest of the province, elementary school students are planned to return to in-person learning on January 11, 2021 and secondary school student will return to in-person school classes on January 25, 2021. Childcare will remain open for the duration of the shutdown.
Prior to the announcement about the lockdown, updated modelling data was released. The regional measures have been effective at flattening the positivity rate, but the positivity rate is still high and case numbers continue to grow. Currently in Ontario there are 133 cases per 1 Million people per day with over 2,000 cases added daily for seven straight days. Hospitals in the hardest-hit regions are warning of unsustainable pressure and ICU capacity issues which will impact access to care and quality of care issues for all patients. The modelling suggested that a “hard lockdown” similar to that used by peer jurisdictions is needed to dramatically reduce case numbers. This will eventually lead to lower case numbers so that safe ICU care can be provide to COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients who require it.
After the shutdown, the province will return to the COVID-19 Response Framework and a regional approach. In addition, the Chief Medical Officer will assess and apply lessons learned to the COVID-19 Response Framework to ensure appropriate and effective measures are in place that protect health and enable economic recovery in Ontario.
New Ontario Small Business Support Grant
Given the COVID numbers during the month of December, today’s announcement is not entirely a surprise. Premier Ford and his government have attempted a number of other, less restrictive approaches in tackling the pandemic. Unfortunately, these have not proven successful in bringing down the rates of transmission and infection. It is fair to say that these lockdown measures are being taken with a high degree of reluctance; after all, governments are simultaneously grappling with safeguarding the health of the population and the health of their respective economies. For the next few weeks, the economy will have to take a back seat.
While the arrival of COVID vaccines offers a light at the end of the tunnel, the provincial government is signalling that the month of January will continue to be difficult in terms of curtailing the spread of COVID. With acute care and intensive care hospital beds filling up rapidly, the government really did not have many alternatives. The support for small businesses announced today will certainly be welcome by those enterprises who need it most, although today’s announcement was received with dire warnings from small business groups. We remind our clients that there are a number of supports for businesses and individuals that have been previously announced by the federal government as well. If you are uncertain about what relief programs are now in place, and who may be eligible, please feel free to reach out to your Sussex consultant.
On behalf of everyone at Sussex, please accept our best wishes for a safe and healthy holiday season.