It’s no longer a matter of “if” we go into a further state of lockdown, but when: Harsher restrictions are coming for residents of Ontario’s coronavirus hot spots, according to Premier Doug Ford, and they’ll be handed down this Friday.
Speaking during his daily pandemic press conference on Wednesday, Ford paused before taking questions from reporters to “address the situation with COVID-19.”
His remarks were ominous, to say the least, if not a full-on early warning of a lockdown for much of the GTA.
“We continue seeing extremely, extremely troubling numbers in Peel, Toronto and York Region,” said the premier of the red-zoned regions, which reported 463, 410 and 178 new infections this morning respectively.
“The virus is spreading at an alarming rate in these areas. I can’t stress this enough. The situation is extremely, extremely serious.”
Ford went on to repeat earlier remarks about how “we’re staring down the barrel of another lockdown” and explained again that he has asked Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, to draw up recommendations on what can be done to flatten the curve.
“We expect new measures to be discussed at cabinet and announced in the coming days,” said Ford. “Because my friends, we need to hunker down.”
Hospital capacity is becoming a serious issue, according to Ford, “especially around Brampton, North Etobicoke and other areas within Toronto.”
The premier also made it clear that his government is taking a “more targeted approach in the hotspots,” and that he is “not recommending by any means”a lockdown across the province.
We’ll know more about what will be done to stop the rapid spread of COVID-19 in red zones on Friday, according to Ford, after his cabinet reviews Dr. Williams’ advice and makes some decisions.
While unlikely that numbers will drop enough for public health officials to feel confident in just two days, Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott both encouraged everyone to continue following public health recommendations and to stop breaking the rules.
“We have to stop this, so we need to be responsible,” said Ford. “The health experts in this province, the government, can throw everything we have at it, which we have, but if people aren’t listening…”
The premier then launched into a rant about a 100-person party inside a Toronto storage facility over the weekend. Gathering limits in red zone regions are 10 people maximum indoors and 25 people maximum outdoors, for the record.
“I’m done with this – I’m done with people holding parties, having get-togethers,” said Ford, noting that law-abiding people in hot spot regions will end up paying the price for this “unacceptable” behaviour.
“Everyone thinks ‘it’s a big joke, everything’s fine,'” he continued of people flouting restrictions. “Well, we’ll see how fine it is.”
During what turned out to be a rather angry press conference, Ford went on to chastise people who go to work while sick, people who let their kids have sleepovers, people who party and even anti-maskers.
“I’m getting so tired of these anti-maskers: ‘The world is fine, everyone just go out there’,” said the premier, mocking the thousands of conspiracy theorists who believe that mask use is a tool of government oppression that actually gives people COVID-19.
“Guys, get it together, because we’re at a critical stage, and I’m at my brink,” said a clearly-frustrated Ford.
“I keep seeing the numbers climb. My job is to protect the health and safety of every single Ontarian and if it means locking down… that’s what we’re doing.”
Of course, this isn’t the first time Ford has threatened non-compliant citizens with a looming potential lockdown: He’s now warned the public so many times, in fact, that he “won’t hesitate” to bring the hammer down it’s become somewhat of a joke.
At least this time he’s giving us a date to expect the news of a potential lockdown by.
“As I said, we’re looking at lockdown if this continues in Peel and Toronto and York,” said Ford, who also said on Wednesday that “without health and safety we don’t have an economy, it’s as simple as that.”
Addressing anti-maskers and young people who flout COVID measures specifically, he issued the following warning:
“Be prepared on Friday, then you can look at each other and say ‘why are we in this position?’… No more parties, no more nothing.”