Ontario government rejects lifting lockdown measures by region

Premier Doug Ford and his government have rejected the region-by-region approach to lifting lockdown measures that were considered by the medical officer of health in the Kingston region.

According to data provided by the province, areas like Toronto, Ottawa, Windsor-Essex, and the Peel and York regions are all susceptible to the COVID-19 virus as the infection rates are six times higher in comparison to the northeast and northwest Ontario.

Places like Kingston are seeing a lower number of cases, as the medical officer of health in Kingston stated. Kingston currently has cases less than one-quarter of the provincial average. 

The medical officer of health in the region also asked the Premier to consider a regional approach to easing COVID-19 restrictions, allowing the Kingston region to slowly reopen ahead of other regions.

Despite these low numbers, Premier Doug Ford and his government has rejected this request from Kingston and will not consider any region in the Province to lift its lockdown measures.

During his televised address to the province on Wednesday May 6, Ford states that Ontario and its residents need to “stick together, and together we will get through this”.

Ford worries that lifting restrictions in specific sectors will not only put those in the area at risk, but it may add more cases to the regions.

“If they loosen up restrictions in one area, guess where all the people from Toronto and the GTA are going, if they want to go have dinner? They’re all going to flock to Kingston, and I don’t think that’d be very fair for that jurisdiction to have everyone coming in one shot like that.”

In addition, the chief medical officer of health in B.C also announced this past Wednesday that British Columbia will not implement regional phase-outs of COVID-19 restrictions stating that precautions must be taken. 

“This virus doesn’t recognize our geopolitical boundaries so we have to be careful and take these precautions across the province,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, the chief medical officer of health in B.C.

Despite this, Kingston officials and the neighboring counties of Lennox, Addington, and Frontenac think Ford should re-evaluate that decision.

“We’re asking the province to consider a regional approach to the easing of restrictions in places where the COVID-19 situation is evolving differently than other parts of the province,” said Kingston’s top doctor Kieran Michael Moore in a letter to the government.

In a phone interview on Thursday May 7, Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson believes the government should re-evaluate the decision for the benefit of regions with lower cases.

“If we look at the road that’s ahead of us, having to live with this virus for the next year and a half, a one-size-fits-all approach may not be the best”.

Regional differences

Despite the decision made by the Ford government, the number of cases in the northwest and northeast is undeniably smaller in comparison to areas like Toronto.

According to reports regarding the number of cases in each region, seven public health units located north of Muskoka — which has a population of approximately 800,000 people — only has 42 total reported cases.

Toronto is currently the area with the highest amount of cases due to the outbreaks occurring in retirement homes, but that does not exclude small rural communities from seeing outbreaks of COVID-19.

Rural areas like Leeds, Grenville & Lanark and Haldimand-Norfolk have also been hit with large outbreaks of COVID-19 due to their retirement homes and long-term healthcare facilities.

With areas of all sizes being possible locations for COVID-19 outbreaks to occur, Ford’s decision must be beneficial for all sectors regardless of case numbers.

Ontario currently has a reported 19,598 cases of COVID-19 in the province.

Written by: Angelo Cruz

Featured Image Credits: REUTERS/Carlos Osorio/File Photo

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