The Ontario government of Premier Doug Ford is spending the weekend consulting on options as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise higher and new projections show that without higher mitigation new identified cases will rise to 6,000 at day by the end of January.
Ontario public health testing has identified close to 2,500 cases a day during the week. On Wednesday, when 43 more deaths were reported, Ontario passed 4,000 deaths from the virus causing COVID-19.
After repeatedly saying infection numbers were under control despite surging to new highs, Ford’s Conservative government has come under pressure from the medical community.
The Ontario Hospital Association last week called for “immediate action” to prevent hospital ICUs from being overwhelmed. However, on Thursday the Premier said he won’t make any “snap decision” about further restrictions or mitigation strategies.
The latest delays come more than two months after Ontario’s test, trace and isolate efforts began to collapse in early October. In response, on October 6 as public health identified 548 new cases of COVID-19, Premier Ford said his government’s policies “are flattening the curve.” Ontario delayed implementation of further restrictions until November 23, when identified cases hit 1,589.
Since then Premier Ford, Health Minister Christine Elliot and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams have made a series of comments indicating that COVID-19 was under control with the existing levels of restriction.
On December 2, when the new daily case count was 1,723, Health Minister Elliot said “we’re seeing the numbers starting to go down.” On December 7, Dr. Williams said data was showing “the lockdown has had an effect.” And on Tuesday of this week, the Premier reported that cases were at “a plateau” because of measures already in effect.
“The longer that Ford waits, the longer that he dithers and delays, the more out of control this pandemic gets,” said opposition NDP leader Andrea Horwath on Friday.
With case counts are rising to new highs in the greater Toronto area, the city’s board of health chair, councillor Joe Cressy, has publically called on the province to tighten restrictions on personal interactions, boost a test and isolate campaign and ensure workers have access to paid sick leave.