Entire province joining Sarnia-Lambton in lockdown, Ontario hits emergency brake

Premier Doug Ford addresses the media on September 22, 2020

Areas across the entire province will be joining Sarnia-Lambton in lockdown.

Premier Doug Ford announced Thursday afternoon that Ontario is implementing a provincewide emergency brake for at least four weeks effective Saturday, April 3 at 12:01 a.m.

The action comes amid an alarming spike in COVID-19 cases that is threatening the critical care system.

For Sarnia-Lambton, which has been in Grey-Lockdown in the province’s colour-coded response framework since March 15, the new restrictions are similar to those currently in place with some exceptions.

Measures announced by the province Friday include:

Prohibiting indoor organized public events and social gatherings and limiting the capacity for outdoor organized public events or social gatherings to a 5-person maximum, except for gatherings with members of the same household (the people you live with) or gatherings of members of one household and one other person from another household who lives alone.

Restricting in-person shopping in all retail settings, including a 50 per cent capacity limit for supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, indoor farmers’ markets, other stores that primarily sell food and pharmacies, and 25 per cent for all other retail including big box stores, along with other public health and workplace safety measures.

Prohibiting personal care services.

Prohibiting indoor and outdoor dining. Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments will be permitted to operate by take-out, drive-through, and delivery only.

Prohibiting the use of facilities for indoor or outdoor sports and recreational fitness (e.g., gyms) with very limited exceptions.

Requiring day camps to close.

Limiting capacity at weddings, funerals, and religious services, rites or ceremonies to 15 per cent occupancy per room indoors, and to the number of individuals that can maintain two metres of physical distance outdoors. This does not include social gatherings associated with these services such as receptions, which are not permitted indoors and are limited to five people outdoors.

During the emergency shutdown, schools will remain open for in-person learning with strict safety measures in place. The spring break will continue as planned for the week of April 12.

There were 2,557 new cases reported in Ontario Thursday, the highest single day total since January 22, and the province’s science advisers said new modelling indicates the pandemic’s third wave is being driven by more deadly variants.  Since March 3, Sarnia-Lambton has recorded 133 cases involving Variants of Concern (VOCs).

Lambton Medical Officer of Health Dr. Sudit Ranade, in a media briefing Thursday, said all of the evidence shows that lockdowns do decrease COVID transmission.

“Why do lockdowns decrease transmission? Because they effectively keep people from interacting with each other,” said Dr. Ranade. “I believe that over time, lockdowns become less and less efficient on average because people are likely to gather in situations that are not controlled by the lockdown. So if you’re going to see people gathering in social groups, and those things are not handled under the lockdown model, then you’re still going to see ongoing transmission.”

Dr. Ranade said lockdowns certainly have negative impacts.

“The evidence is also fairly clear that lockdowns have tremendously negative physical, psychological, social and economic consequences.  So, to the extent that those consequences can be mitigated against, they should be. I think that’s an important piece that we constantly forget about when we’re talking about lockdowns.”

-With files from Colin Gowdy