By Courtney Bachar/The Oshawa Express/LJI Reporter
Oshawa will be back under an emergency lockdown, along with the rest of the province, effective Saturday, April 3 at 12:01 a.m.
Despite outdoor dining just reopening in Oshawa as of April 1, restaurants will have to revert back to takeout, drive-thru and delivery only during the lockdown.
Premier Doug Ford announced he was implementing the “provincewide emergency brake” Thursday due to an increase in COVID-19 and COVID-19 variant cases. The lockdown will last for at least four weeks.
“We need to take action now,” says Ford, noting the situation is not unique to Ontario, as provinces across the country as well as some states are facing similar challenges.”
“They’re all dealing with the effects of a third wave and a dangerous new variant,” Ford says, adding the decision for the shutdown was “not made lightly.”
As COVID-19 cases continue to increase, the province is working to increase hospital and ICU capacities as well. Ford notes that 70 additional beds will be made available at the Toronto Congress Centre to provide some relief at hospitals and free up beds for COVID patients.
Since the start of the pandemic, the government has added 3,100 new hospital beds.
“We’re working around the clock to help our hospital capacity,” he says.
Ford says more time is also needed to continue the roll out of the province’s the vaccination plan.
He says 2.3 million vaccines have been administered to date in Ontario, noting more pharmacies, primary care settings and mobile clinics are coming online every day.
Starting Saturday, another 350 pharmacies across the province will begin offering the vaccine, which brings the total pharmacies across the province included in the vaccination rollout plan to 700.
“We’re ready to ramp up to 1,500 once we have more vaccines,” Ford says, noting millions of additional vaccines are “on the horizon.”
“The bottom line is that we need more time,” he adds. “The cost of inaction is simply too high.”
In addition, Ford says the government is doing everything they can to keep kids in class.
“This is a top priority,” he says. “As always, we will closely monitor the situation and not hesitate to act to protect our kids and families.”
As the Easter long weekend approaches, Ford is reminding residents to avoid social gatherings and stay within family households.
“I’m asking everyone to only gather with your immediate households because, my friends, I want us to have a good summer and these steps the next four weeks are our best chance to save lives and to make sure this summer we can get things open and get back to our lives.”
The emergency lockdown also means stronger restrictions.
In-person shopping for retail establishments such as supermarkets and other stores that primarily sell groceries, convenience stores and pharmacies is reduced to 50 per cent capacity, while the capacity limit for all other retail, including discount and big box retailers, liquor stores, cannabis stores, hardware stores and garden centres is reduced to 25 per cent. Personal care and indoor recreational fitness facilities are prohibited.
Indoor organized public events and social gatherings are not permitted, and outdoor gatherings are limited to no more than five people.
The capacity limit for weddings, funerals and other religious services indoors is 15 per cent, while outside can be the number of people that can maintain two metres physical distance.
Ontario reported 2,557 new COVID cases Thursday.
Ford noted the new variants are “far more dangerous than before, spread faster and do more harm than the virus we were fighting last year,” and younger people are ending up in the hospital.
With these new variants, Ford says the risk of ICU admission is two times higher and the risk of death is one-and-a-half times higher.
“We’re now seeing a nearly 14 per cent increase in hospitalizations, with COVID-19 patients in the ICU increasing dramatically,” he says, adding Ontario is facing a very serious situation.
“As I’ve said many times, we will do whatever it takes to protect the people of Ontario.”
Durham Region Health Department reported 104 new cases Wednesday, with 22 cases reported in Oshawa.
There are now a total 1,014 active cases of COVID-19 in Durham Region. Of those, 974 are in home isolation, and 40 are in hospital with 11 in the ICU. There are also 78 confirmed COVID-19 variant cases across the region.