All of Ontario will be under lockdown as of Christmas Eve, sources tell CTV News Toronto.
These sources, who have direct knowledge of the situation, say the lockdown will begin at 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 24 and will last for 28 days in the southern portions of the province (south of Sudbury) and 14 days in the northern parts.
This lockdown will look similar to the province-wide shutdown back in March, with only essential businesses being allowed to remain open.
Under the province-wide lockdown, sources say, the winter break for students will be extended. CTV News Toronto has not been able to confirm the exact length of the school closure.
Toronto, Peel Region, York Region and Windsor-Essex are already under lockdown. Hamilton is set to join the grey zone of the province’s tiered COVID-19 framework on Monday.
The province-wide lockdown has not been formally announced by the provincial government.
Ford indicated on Friday that an announcement regarding additional measures being taken to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus will be made on Monday.
The sources say the decision to implement a province-wide lockdown was made based off COVID-19 modelling data.
The data has shown that under any scenario, Ontario will see about 300 people in intensive care by the end of December. At the current rate of transmission, that number would grow to 700 patients by the end of January.
The province has said that once the number of COVID-19 patients in Ontario’s intensive care units (ICU) surpasses 300 supporting other medical needs not related to the disease becomes nearly impossible.
There are currently 261 patients infected with the disease in ICUs across the province.
Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Issac Bogoch said a "major pivot" is needed to reduce the spread and track down where the cases are stemming from.
“Certainly it’s not sustainable to have 2,000 cases of COVID-19 per day in the province and we’ve seen over the last month how the hospitals are filling up and how the hospital system is getting stretched beyond capacity and now we’re actually having to reduce care for non-COVID-19-related issues because of the influx of patients with COVID-19," Bogoch told CP24 on Sunday.
"I just hope that during the course of this time they look upstream and look at the root causes of these infections in the community and start dealing with the root causes of these infections so that we don't have wave after wave of lockdown," he added.
On Sunday, 24 hospitals across the Greater Toronto Area released a joint statement calling on the province to implement stricter measures to help curb the spread of the disease. The letter was in support of the Ontario Hospital Association’s (OHA) call for stronger lockdown measures in the province in the wake of record-breaking infections.
The letter said frontline workers are “stressed and overstretched” and that “this level of strain is simply not sustainable for much longer.”
“We are seeing increasing numbers of staff becoming ill and not able to work – both with COVID-19 and other illnesses,” the letter reads. “While we are coping and planning for redeployment, we are seeing more illness and stress and hearing about the toll this is taking on people’s families.”
On Thursday, the OHA called on the provincial government to implement a four-week lockdown in every public health unit placed, or considered to be placed, in the “red” control zone of the province’s COVID-19 response framework.
“(Frontline workers) are exhausted, they're emotionally and physically exhausted,” OHA President and CEO Anthony Dale said on Sunday. “And they see no end in sight to the accelerating surge of COVID-19 patients and what that's doing is it's crowding out all kinds of other very important care, some of that life saving care like cardiac and cancer care even organ transplants are being disrupted because of the uncontrolled surge in COVID-19.”
Dale added that lockdown measures worked in the first wave of the pandemic back in the spring and that those measures, or even stricter measures, need to be in place now to curb transmission of the disease.
Ontario has seen daily case counts surpass 2,000 for six days in a row. The seven-day average is currently 2,249.
The total number of lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in Ontario is 155,930, including 4,150 deaths and 133,213 recovered patients.
Concerns about waiting days to implement lockdown
Medical experts are weighing in on the looming province-wide lockdown and say the government may not be acting quick enough to impose stricter measures.
Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Abdu Sharkawy said he’s worried “a lot of damage” could be done in the coming days with people flocking to stores to finish their holiday shopping before lockdown measures come into effect.
“I'm really worried that people will use these four days, not to actually start to behave more responsibly and take it upon themselves to impose these measures for the safety and concern of everyone in their community, but instead to forge a mad scramble towards malls and retailers to try and get those last minute Christmas gifts, or perhaps to gather in social occasions with others before we're all locked down,” Sharkawy told CP24.
Bogoch said the government should give residents a sufficient amount of time to get their affairs in order before a lockdown but not too much time for the situation to get worse.
“I think it's fair to give people some period of time, how long that runway is is debatable. I think my personal opinion is that you know 48 hours should be sufficient but of course I think if you line 10 people you're going to get several different answers there.”
Lockdown will be a ‘death sentence’ for thousands of small businesses
Small businesses have been struggling to stay afloat amid the pandemic as they had to cope with a lockdown during the spring and now another one during the busiest shopping time of the year.
President and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), Dan Kelly, said a province-wide lockdown is a “death sentence” for thousands of businesses.
“This is absolutely going to be devastating for businesses to many of whom in Toronto and Peel are looking forward to leaving a lockdown zone but to extend this province-wide is going to be disastrous, leading to the death of thousands and thousands of businesses across the province,” Kelly told CP24.
Kelly argued that some of the lockdown measures that target retail shopping need to be reconsidered and that some of the restrictions are making the situation “worse rather than better.”
He added that the province needs to ensure the new restrictions are “fine-tuned and based on data.”
“It’s an incredibly difficult challenge. I certainly get [that] but there is no province anywhere in the country that is including Ontario’s lockdown measures as part of its arsenal against COVID-19. No province has allowed big box stores to remain open while small retailers are forced to close,” he said.
Kelly also noted that the province needs to provide more financial support programs to assist small businesses during this difficult time.
“The provincial supports are terribly small. We have suggested that the province could top up the wage subsidy, top up the rent subsidy. Nothing short of 100 per cent support for businesses that are affected is going to help them get through the finish line.”
With files from CTV News Toronto's Queen's Park Bureau Chief Colin D'Mello.