The Ontario government is moving to activate an “emergency brake” for four weeks across the entire province in response to rising COVID-19 cases and strained capacity at intensive care units, multiple sources tell Global News.
While the move came after an hours-long meeting of the Ontario cabinet on Wednesday, several health-care professionals in the province have pleaded for government intervention in recent weeks.
Many of the logistical details were still being sorted out Wednesday evening. However, government and political party sources said the emergency measure would take effect sometime before the Easter weekend.
The sources said the restrictions will generally be similar to what is seen in the grey lockdown level of Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework. However, they also said elements of the “emergency brake” plan will be at the discretion of public health units.
Multiple sources also confirmed Ontario’s schools would remain open after the Easter weekend until the April break, which is scheduled for the week of April 12. They said a decision hasn’t been made on what will happen after the break, pending further information from public health officials.
The sources, who weren’t authorized to speak publicly, also emphasized the details were current as of Wednesday evening and could be the subject of change before the announcement is officially made on Thursday.
During a news conference earlier in the day, Premier Doug Ford hinted restrictions were coming.
“Stay tuned. You’ll hear an announcement tomorrow but I’m very, very concerned to see the cases go up,” he said.
“I’m very concerned to see the ICU capacity and we all have to be vigilant and throughout the holidays over the next few days, I’m just asking people don’t gather in large groups.”
Dr. Samantha Hill, president of the Ontario Medical Association, said the most recent pandemic numbers are “quite scary.” She said more young people are becoming seriously ill with COVID-19 and are staying in hospitals longer, putting further pressure on the health-care system.
“We are going to see more ICU use than we have with the first two waves, and that means that we’re going to have less ICU resources available, less hospital resources available,” she said.
“We really do need to do whatever is necessary to make sure that we stamp down the spread of the virus.”
This is a developing story that will be updated.
— With files from Ryan Rocca and The Canadian Press