Avoiding the term lockdown in favour of “emergency brake,” the province is imposing more restrictions on Ontarians as of Saturday, citing concerns about the growing number of COVID-19 cases, particularly hospitalizations.
Premier Doug Ford announced this afternoon harsher measures that include an end to indoor and outdoor dining at restaurants, prohibiting personal services such as haircuts and reduced capacities for retailers (50 per cent for grocery stores, farmers’ markets and pharmacies; 25 per cent for all other retail).
“We are facing a serious situation and drastic measures are required to contain the rapid spread of the virus, especially the new variants of concern,” Ford said in a statement. “I know pulling the emergency brake will be difficult on many people across the province, but we must try and prevent more people from getting infected and overwhelming our hospitals. Our vaccine rollout is steadily increasing, and I encourage everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated. That is our best protection against this deadly virus.”
The move is somewhat in keeping with local health officials’ suggestions Waterloo Region remain at the red level on the province’s reopening scale.
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The region has seen an increase in cases, but not at the same rate as the provincial average, medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang said at the weekly briefing Thursday.
“In regards to our overall trends, Ontario is in a third wave, though our cases have not increased at the same rate as other communities in the province. I am concerned because we are starting to see an increase in our case rates again.”
Currently, there are 305 active cases of the virus, bringing the total count to 11,931 since the virus was first detected in March 2020. There have been 242 fatalities throughout the duration of the pandemic in the region.
As of Thursday, there were 21 individuals in hospital, with six in intensive care.
“The indicators for Waterloo Region are showing the cases are continuing to grow. And they are now again within the red control level of Ontario’s framework,” said Wang, noting that trend halts any thought of improving on the red-level rating.
“The situation across Ontario is very concerning,” she said, pointing to variants of concern that are now dominating the majority of positive cases throughout Ontario.
“Regarding the variants of concern, we continue to see an increase in variance to date a total of 433 variant cases have been identified in Waterloo Region. Of that total, 27 have been confirmed as the B. 1.1.7 and the remaining 406 cases have the positive for variants. Variants of concern are now the predominant strain in Ontario and are driving the third wave. The percentage of new cases reading positive for a variant is now more than 60 per cent in Ontario, and more than 23,000 people in Ontario have screened positive for a variant although the growth of variants has been slower to date in Waterloo Region than in Ontario overall the variance will continue to grow and our situation remains precarious.”
Neighbouring Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph currently has indicators and case rates, keeping them in the orange category of the provincial colour-coded framework. That region has 140 active cases of the virus, including four in hospital, with one in intensive care. These figures place the total at 5,204 since the start of the pandemic, with 4,958 now resolved. There have unfortunately been 106 deaths in that area.
In the province, there were 2,557 cases reported Thursday morning, bringing the total number to approximately 352,000 throughout the pandemic, resulting in 7,398 deaths.