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Strict measures to fight COVID; province backtracks on playgrounds; police powers

UPDATE APRIL 18: Ontario’s government has changed new strict guidelines on parks and police powers.

Solicitor General Sylvia Jones stated police will now only be able to stop people who they have reason to believe are participating in an “organized public event or social gathering.”

Friday, the province had given police authority to request information of any person as to their why they’re out and where they live. Several police departments across the province disagreed with the initial ruling and stated they would not enforce.

Changes to sports and recreation – as long as two metres physical distancing can be maintained – now allow parks and recreational areas, including benches, playgrounds, play structures, and play equipment and off-leash dog parks.

However, still closed are (including but not limited to): outdoor sports facilities, such as golf courses, tennis courts, basketball courts and skate parks, baseball diamonds, soccer fields and other multi-use fields, picnic sites and picnic tables.

UPDATE APRIL 17: Premier Doug Ford, on his Twitter account, stated today “Ontario’s enhanced restrictions were always intended to stop large gatherings where spread can happen. Our regulations will be amended to allow playgrounds but gatherings outside will still be enforced. Play outside safely. Parents keep your distance & wear masks if you can’t.”

APRIL 16: The province has extended the stay-at-home order and imposed stricter measures – effective Saturday – to fight soaring COVID-19 cases.

“We’re losing the battle between the variants and the vaccines,” said Premier Doug Ford Friday afternoon. “We’re down, but no means are we out… We need to be limiting mobility, enforcing the rules and getting vaccines into arms.”

Effective Saturday:
– Extension of emergency declaration and stay-at-home order for an additional two weeks, to May 20, at least.
– Residents must remain at home at all times with exceptions for essential purposes such as groceries, pharmacy, accessing health care services, for exercise or essential work that cannot be done remotely, child care, or school
– outdoor gatherings limited to members of own household only (People living alone can gather with one other household)
– closing all non-essential construction work
– closing outdoor recreational  such as golf, basketball courts, playgrounds, etc.
– reducing capacity in big box retail to 25 per cent, and in all stores permitted to be open

  • All other public health and workplace safety measures for non-essential retail under the provincewide emergency brake (i.e., curbside pick-up and delivery only), will continue to apply.

– Starting Monday, Ontario will set up checkpoints at Manitoba and Quebec borders to restrict land travel to essential travel only (medical, work, transportation of goods).
– reducing worship, weddings and funerals to 10 people indoors.

For the first time since the pandemic started, police officers will temporarily be allowed to ask people where they live and why they aren’t at their home. Officers will have the discretion to issue a $750 ticket if the person declines to respond, or fails to provide a valid reason.

Hastings Prince Edward Public Health can also enforce orders. To date it has issued five tickets for not complying with self-isolation orders; one for failure to comply with the stay-at-home order and seven tickets for not following regulations under the reopening Ontario act (two for lack of screening of staff; two for not spacing restaurant tables; one for not wearing adequate PPE, one for not recording client information and one for a staff person not wearing a face covering).

HPEPH is also in the process of filing obstruction charges against an individual who tested positive, and who was not honest about their activities during the time they were contagious.

“We know when followed, these restrictions work. We’ve seen it before,” said Ford, adding 20 per cent of province has 80 per cent of cases.”

The province is also increasing supply of vaccines as available to hotspots and pressing the federal government to get more shipments.

An update Friday morning from Ontario’s science advisory table shows COVID-19 cases rising in most of the 34 public health units.

Hastings Prince Edward reported 15 new cases today – the 17th consecutive day of double-digit increases – but the active case load, with recoveries, has been dropping this week and is now at 134. Hospitalizations here have increased with 14 in hospital, six in ICU and one on a ventilator.

Friday afternoon, hundreds of people gathered at Zwick’s Park in Belleville to march to city hall in protest of provincial lockdowns. Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston independent MPP Randy Hillier, was guest speaker. He is a member of the ‘No More Lockdowns’ group.

Meanwhile, Ontario’s science advisory table stated this morning that “Without stronger system-level measures and immediate support for essential workers and high-risk communities, high case rates will persist through the summer,” the table said, repeating recommendations it has been making for months.

Among recommendations are: a paid sick leave program for essential workers with quicker access than the federal program; doubling down on vaccinations in highest risk communities; limiting which businesses are allow to stay open; limit into and within Ontario.

The table states Ontario needs at least a six-week stay-at-home order with an average of 100,000 vaccinations a day to gain control of the pandemic’s third wave.

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health states Ontario’s current trajectory with “moderate” public restrictions in place for four weeks, along with 100,000 vaccines per day, the province could see more than 10,000 cases per day by late May and 15,000 by late June.

“Our hospitals can no longer function normally. They are bursting at the seams,” he said. He added that the province shouldn’t have eased measures after Christmas while the variants became prevalent.

Another key is that according to cell phone data, the stay-at-home order issued April 8 shows a reduction of movement of people, but not as much as the order after Boxing Day.

“The pace of vaccinations is not enough on its own to contain increasing transmissions of the virus,” he said.

However, he noted things could have been worse, noting that without current measures in place, Ontario could have seen more than 30,000 new infections per day by the end of May.

Ontario reported 4,812 new COVID-19 cases Friday, a new record daily count. The seven-day average is also high, rising to 4,292.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Medical Association is seeking national collaboration between provinces and territories and more restrictive public health measures.

“We act as one country when crisis hits with wildfires, floods and other tragedies. This pandemic has reached a new level that requires a national response,” CMA president Dr. Ann Collins said in a news release. “We must do everything needed to avoid making unbearable choices as to who lives if resources are not available.”

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  1. Kevin says:

    “Draconian” measures need to be implemented when complacency and lack of common decency for family, friends and neighbours become an after-thought. I wear a mask to keep others safe.

  2. Kevin says:

    I’m not a fan of Doug Ford, but it has become evident that we’re no further ahead (except for the 4000+ more cases/per day) than we were this time last year when parks were closed. Since then we haven’t learned a thing. We’ve become tired of the pandemic and we’re dropping our guard. Kids are resilient and can find other fun (art, writing, reading, digging for worms etc). For adults, Covid has become an education in parenting and we’re finding it hard to handle. Now’s the time to get to know and enjoy your kids without the playground. There’s tons to do in the county as a family without playgrounds. Try fishing.

  3. Dennis Fox says:

    Today(Saturday) I listened to a CBC province-wide radio phone-in show. From doctors to nurses, from childcare workers to PSWs and from just moms and dads – none of them support these too late measures that the Ford government have initiated – particularly the banning of outdoor activities. Dr. Peter Uni, a member of the the Scientific Advisory Table – said it straight out – that he and the advisory table have been ignore by the Ford government and that these new restrictions came only from Ford. The fact that studies have proven that 99.9% of this disease is spread indoors, the banning of outdoor playgrounds for kids makes no sense! All agreed that paid sick days is a must to get this virus under control. From the true experts, none of what Ford is doing is based on science nor medicine.

    Personally, I feel it is time for the public to let their voices be heard – this approach by the Ford government is not good enough!

  4. Chuck says:

    So lets understand this from a childs perspective. They can have no baseball, no soccer, no playgrounds, no birthday parties, no school but adults can flock to beer and liquor stores. The government should provide an explanation for children as to why this is fair and makes sense.

  5. SM says:

    Mr Ford and his cabinet have gone too far this time. Random police stops are clearly unconstitutional as is closing the border to our provincial neighbours. At the same time the actions of Mr Hillier and the protestors are irresponsible and actually against the public good. Owen Sound’s local health unit advised everyone to assume that every person around them was infected with the virus and behave in ways to prevent being infected. If every person were to behave in that fashion we could end transmission without the draconian measures that this provincial government has imposed.

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