Ottawa, Eastern Ontario included in lockdown to quell inter-provincial travel as border closure ‘virtually impossible’

Province-wide lockdown takes effect Dec. 26

EASTERN ONTARIO — Premier Doug Ford conceded yesterday a key reason for slapping lockdown measures on Ottawa and broader Eastern Ontario, despite a better COVID-19 situation here, is the need to head off a potential inflow of Quebecers looking to avoid lockdown measures in their own hard-hit province — but without shutting the border.

“When we open up and Quebec closes down, guess what happens?” said Premier Ford in reply to a question from CTV’s Graham Richardson during yesterday’s announcement of province-wide lockdown measures that take effect Dec. 26. Quebecers “will come over in droves” should Ottawa and Eastern Ontario be exempt from lockdown, the premier predicted. “Numbers will be driven back up.”

Below, yesterday’s announcement.

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams warned that cases in the region “could still explode at any time” because most people are not immune. “So we want to make sure that does not occur… All of a sudden with cases coming in, it picks up very fast, moves through the community, and they go from green to yellow to orange to red very fast, and some of those areas have less resources to deal with that. So preventative measures are as important as our reactive measures.”

But what about the preventative measure of closing the Ontario border to Quebecers as an alternative to closing down the Nation’s Capital and Eastern Ontario?

The Ford government government is very clear it won’t contemplate closing the inter-provincial border. (The move would be unprecedented for Ontario, which has never closed its side of the line during the pandemic — although Quebec did, unilaterally, for a period earlier in the year.)

The premier’s director of media relations, Ivana Yelich, told NVN that a provincial border closure is “virtually impossible.”

“We know that many Ontarians are in a position that requires them to travel across provincial borders on a regular basis for work and essential needs,” Yelich wrote in an email.

Ironically, during yesterday’s lockdown announcement, the premier railed against perceived looseness at Ontario’s international points of entry, in airports. “If there’s one area we can improve, it’s at our borders,” the premier declared during yesterday’s announcement.

The lockdown is set to last for 28 days outside of northern Ontario (where it’s 14 days) and is similar to the general lockdown of Stage 1 back in March.

While Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has expressed anger at his city’s inclusion in the lockdown — despite improved case numbers — other local politicians in Eastern Ontario are more accepting of their fate.

“Please follow all COVID-19 safety guidelines. While we understand the  challenges that the lockdown presents, it is imperative that we trust our  health officials to reduce the impact of the pandemic. Everyone must do  their part,” said South Dundas Mayor Steven Byvelds today, following a meeting yesterday with is municipality’s emergency management committee.

Said SD&G Warden Frank Prevost: “It’s unfortunate that we have to go through this at this time of year. But the numbers are increasing and we have to reduce those numbers as quickly as we can to get back to some kind of normal. I’m hoping people will share the Christmas holidays with people in their households. We have to remember that many people, especially in trying times like worlds wars, had to deal with much more than the isolation we have to endure this year. We can come out of this relatively quickly if we follow the health protocols mandated by seniors levels of government.”

The lockdown measures include, but are not limited to:

  • Restricting indoor organized public events and social gatherings, except with members of the same household (the people you live with). Individuals who live alone may consider having exclusive close contact with one other household.
  • Prohibiting in-person shopping in most retail settings — curbside pickup and delivery can continue. Discount and big box retailers selling groceries will be limited to 25 per cent capacity for in-store shopping. Supermarkets, grocery stores and similar stores that primarily sell food, as well as pharmacies, will continue to operate at 50 per cent capacity for in-store shopping.
  • Restricting indoor access to shopping malls — patrons may only go to a designated indoor pickup area (by appointment only), essential retail stores that are permitted to be open (e.g. pharmacy, grocery store), or, subject to physical distancing and face covering requirements, to the food court for takeout purchases. Shopping malls may also establish outdoor designated pickup areas.
  • Prohibiting indoor and outdoor dining. Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments will be permitted to operate by take out, drive-through, and delivery only.

The province advises Ontarians to stay home as much as possible with trips outside the home limited to necessities such as food, medication, medical appointments, or supporting vulnerable community members. Employers in all industries should make every effort to allow employees to work from home.

“Residents in our riding have, by and large, followed closely public health measures up to now, and I strongly encourage everyone to continue doing so during this lockdown and beyond,” said Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry MPP Jim McDonell. “Hospitals in many regions are already reaching capacity, and current modelling highlights the need for stronger measures or needless deaths will occur.”

“Without a shutdown, modelling has also shown that ICU use will be above 300 beds within 10 days,” added McDonell, referring to Ontario as a whole. “Unchecked, the occupancy could go as high as 1,500 beds by mid-January. This lockdown of 28 days in Southern Ontario, including the riding of Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry, will significantly help lessen the burden on health care capacity, including local hospitals,” he asserted.




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