EASTERN ONTARIO — Barbers, hairdressers and tattoo parlours could be the next group of businesses compelled to close their doors amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, Eastern Ontario’s Medical Officer of Health suggested in his latest briefing with local media late this afternoon.
“By virtue of the nature of what they’re doing, there is close contact,” Dr. Paul Roumeliotis pointed out, noting he’s currently seeking provincial direction on shutting these “personal services settings.”
“I think that we will be going towards closing them, and this is going to be happening shortly, as soon as we have direction from the ministry.”
The doctor again reported that planning continues for five or six COVID-19 testing centres that are slated to set up in the vicinity of the four hospitals serving the five eastern counties — also confirming that includes one for Winchester District Memorial Hospital. He expects the first testing sites will be in place “early next week.”
In the meantime, EMS paramedics are about to be equipped with testing kits, according to Roumeliotis. “When we require somebody to be tested, we’ll be sending them to their home to do the testing, and that’s going to be a big help for us across the area, and that’s going to be implemented very, very shortly.”
Testing to date in EOHU jurisdiction has been happening through the hospitals, with 60 tests conducted to date, he said. Two have come back positive so far.
The doctor also addressed whether recent cross-border shoppers should be in self-isolation (even as the Canadian and American governments have announced the impending closure of the border to non-essential travel). “Technically, you should be self-isolating,” he said, but then injected some local nuance into his answer by saying it “depends in the context” of where the person visited over the border. “It’s hard for me to say,” the doctor offered, also noting the situation on Akwesasne — which is bifurcated by the international border — as “challenging for us at this point. But I would recommend not crossing the U.S. border.”
Addressing the enforcement of the provincial directive compelling bars and restaurants to close (except for take-out sales), the doctor said it comes down to a police matter. “In terms of the order being broken, it is a provincial enforcement issue.”
This article was updated to include the number of COVID-19 tests carried out to date (as March 18) in the EOHU’s area of jurisdiction.