Yesterday, the Premier announced a new set of measures that the provincial government is implementing as a result of increasing numbers of Covid-19 infections across the province, but particularly within the Greater Toronto Area.
Public health officials have been warning us that further action was needed to address the very worrying impacts of the third wave of this pandemic. With increasing infections, we have witnessed enormous pressure on our health care system, particularly Intensive Care Units. Projections now indicate that these daily figures could rise to between 10,000 and 30,000 per day. Our health care system simply cannot manage increases of this kind, so we do have to take some steps to protect our hospitals, our families and each other.
The provincial announcement included an extension of the current "stay-at-home" order for two weeks beyond the initial four-week term meaning that this order will remain in place until May 20. I know this is very disheartening. I too am disappointed that we have reached this point, but working together and protecting each other, we will get through this. We know that these new variants are very persistent and much more contagious, so please stay home as much as you can, continue to follow public health guidelines and when you are eligible, please register and get your vaccine.
One part of the Premier's announcement included a significant expansion of powers afforded to the police in terms of enforcement. These included the power to stop people either on foot, on bikes or in cars at random to establish why they are not at home. Let me be very clear on this, as I stated yesterday, I do not support this move in any way. We cannot police our way out of this pandemic! What we need right now is to target the workplaces where the spread is happening both with vaccination programs and safety measures. We need to protect and support our front-line essential workers (providing paid sick days) and a re-prioritize vaccine roll out for hard-hit communities. This is what our public health specialists and doctors have been telling us for weeks. This needs to happen!
I am pleased to report that the Toronto Police Service stated this morning that:
"The Toronto Police Service will continue to engage, educate and enforce, but we will not be doing random stops of people or cars. We can all do our part for the health & safety of everyone. The Toronto Police Service will continue to engage and enforce equitably and effectively, recognizing always that we must inspire public trust."
In this statement, the TPS joins with police services across the province in adopting the same policy. Thank you to all of them for responding quickly to our concerns about this provincial measure!
I realize with all of the public health announcements, yesterday's statement could create some confusion and I am certain frustration. Below are the major changes to public health measures announced by the province on Friday:
- The stay at home order will now be extended by two weeks (from four to six weeks) to May 20 – residents must remain home at all times with exceptions for essential reasons such as going to grocery stores and pharmacies, health care services or for essential work or exercise – essential work is only that which cannot be done from home
- Inter-provincial travel will not be permitted as of Monday (April 19). The province will be setting up checkpoints at our provincial borders with Quebec and Manitoba – only essential travel (trucks, medical, etc.) will be permitted
- Any organized outdoor gatherings are not permitted until the order ends. Only people in the same household can be outside together. There is an exception for a person who lives alone – they can join one other household.
- Outdoor activities and amenities (basketball courts, soccer fields, playgrounds, golf courses, etc.) are closed as of today.
- Retail stores that are non-essential but which remain open cannot open earlier than 7 am and must close before 8 pm, including those selling alcohol and hardware retailers as well as those offering curbside delivery or pickup – capacity limits are reduced to 25% for those (grocery/pharmacy, etc.) retailers that are permitted to remain open for in-store shopping
- Places of worship that had been permitted at 15% of capacity are now limited to 10 people including weddings, funerals, services, etc.
- Non-essential construction will be discontinued (shopping malls, offices, hotels, etc.)
Note that the City Staff are currently reviewing the new provincial measures and the City will have more to say in the days ahead.
These are extremely challenging times. But with a combination of public health measures and increased and targeted vaccinations, we can and will bring this pandemic to an end in our City, province and country.
As mentioned repeatedly, further to the additional public health measures needed at this time, vaccinations remain crucial to helping us emerge from this pandemic and getting our lives back to normal. We have seen how important and effective this has been in our long-term care homes where vaccinations have effectively brought Covid-19 under control. We are working as quickly as we can to make vaccines available to everyone in our City. While there have been supply issues, we are expecting increasing numbers of vaccines over the coming days and weeks. We are prioritizing communities and groups where infection rates are the highest including among essential workers. I ask all of you to please register and get your vaccine when you are eligible. This is the link to the City's vaccine webpage which is updated daily: https://www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/covid-19-protect-yourself-others/covid-19-vaccines/covid-19-how-to-get-vaccinated/
Neighbours, have a safe weekend and please remain at home as much as possible with members of your own household, or if you live alone, with one other household and above all let's be kind and supportive towards each other.
Also remember that is ok not to be ok – these are very challenging times and help is available. Here is a link to mental health supports where you can get some supports: https://www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/covid-19-protect-yourself-others/covid-19-mental-health-resources/.