Health officials and members of the opposition are reacting to the Ford government’s decision to enforce its emergency brake and announce a province-wide “shutdown” of all 34 public health units.
On Thursday, Premier Doug Ford said they are fighting “a new pandemic” with the variants and said the virus is spreading faster.
The latest ban, in place for at least four weeks, includes restricting indoor public events and gatherings except for retail and grocery stores.
Schools will also remain open.
There will be a 25 percent capacity limit in retail stores and 50 percent in supermarkets and essential retail, including, but not limited to pharmacies and convenience stores.
Dr. Andrew Morris, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Toronto and the medical director of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at Sinai-University Health Network, called the Ford government “incompetent.”
“Don’t get me started,” Morris told Rob Gillies of The Associated Press.
Morris said Ontario’s COVID situation “reflects a total and absolute abdication of responsibility for the health and wellbeing of our public.”
“It is a tragic and unequivocal failure, fertilized by repeated rejection of scientific evidence,” he said.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath agreed, saying the evidence was there months ago.
“Today’s approach is basically more of the same. The same failed approach that we have been through already,” said Horwath.
“It’s a too little, too late response by this government to what we knew was coming. The variants of concern, the speed at which they spread, the overwhelming of our hospitals and healthcare system. This is exactly what experts warned of back in February.”
They were working in essential jobs where they have the highest exposure risk and the least protection.
Do not insult their sacrifice.
— Michael Warner (@drmwarner) April 1, 2021
“Younger people are being taken down by the variant. We have finite critical care resources, including trained staff,” said Dr. Michael Warner, medical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital.
“We should be doing everything possible to avoid having to triage patients we save today to palliation in the future. Today’s measures are not enough.”
The announcement comes hours after the province’s science advisers said stay-at-home orders are needed to control the third wave.
In the best-case scenario, with a stay-at-home order in effect for April and vaccinations administered at a constant rate, cases will peak at around 3,000 a day in mid-April and then drop back to below 2,000 a day by the end of the month.
Under the worst-case projections, with no intervention, the modelling predicts nearly 12,000 cases a day for the province by the end of April.
“It took cabinet 8 hours to come up with a plan that will not protect people adequately,” said Warner.
“It took 6 hours to get 153 ICU doctors to sign a letter explaining why this won’t work.”
Horwath says Ford marched Ontario right into “grave danger” and has failed to implement the tougher restrictions that experts are calling for.
“These public health measures that this government has announced are not what experts are calling for. They fall short of what experts have been calling for,” said Horwath.
“What they were calling for back in February. What they were calling for in the second wave.”
In February, provincial modelling focused on the B.1.1.7 variant first discovered in the United Kingdom, with health experts saying the strain could “soon dominate” the province.
At the time, the science advisory table touched on the Ford government’s decision to relax COVID-19 restrictions, warning that because of the presence of the B.1.1.7. variant in Ontario, cases could rise dramatically if public health restrictions are further eased.
Vaccinations have ramped up in Canada in recent weeks and all adults who want a vaccine are expected to get at least one dose by July.
With files from The Associated Press