A lightly-travelled road is shown in Toronto during rush hour on the first working day of the new Ontario COVID-19 lockdown on Monday, April 5, 2021. The Ontario government recently imposed a provincewide emergency break for at least four weeks due to a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)

Top doctors in Ontario call for province-wide stay-at-home order

The top medical health officers from Toronto, Peel and Ottawa asked the Ontario government on Monday to impose further restrictions to stop the surge of COVID-19 infections.

In a letter, signed by Dr. Eileen de Villa, Dr. Vera Etches and Dr. Lawrence Loh, that was sent to Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, on Sunday, the health officers asked him to immediately issue a province-wide stay at home order.

“A stay-at-home order issued by the province through an Emergency Order is necessary to prevent and mitigate large scale morbidity and mortality and irreparable strain on the health-care system,” the letter said. “Stricter lockdowns have been shown to be effective in other countries to control transmission while vaccine campaigns progressed to achieve sufficient population coverage to suppress transmission.”

The letter strongly recommended the consideration of a number of enhanced public health measures to further slow the spread of COVID-19 within the province, which include imposing travel restrictions between regions in Ontario, legislating the emergency provision of paid sick days to supplement existing federal supports and move schools to online or hybrid learning where school outbreaks in jurisdictions are significant.

The three top doctors also asked for a review of all businesses and services that are currently defined as essential in order to identify businesses and services that should be removed from the list of essential services; identify which businesses and services with the largest square-footage are essential; and implement staffing limits of not more than 50 per cent for businesses and services deemed to be essential after the review.

Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s chief medical officer of health, is seen on a screen as she participates in a news conference via livestream, after confirming to a reporter earlier in the day that the city had entered a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in September 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang)

The letter also requests that all possible efforts are made to secure more vaccines for Ontario and that supports are put in place to administer the vaccines in areas that have the greatest need.

“While continued expansion of vaccine administration remains a critical component of our long-term pandemic response, public health measures are needed immediately to reverse, as quickly as possible, the concerning trends we are seeing in our health units,” the letter said.

According to a tweet from Patty Hajdu, Canada’s Minister of Health, Ontario has received over four million vaccines and the province has already administered about two and a half million doses.

The Ontario government recently imposed a provincewide emergency break for at least four weeks due to a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

The Ontario Medical Association (OMA), which represents over 43,000 physicians, medical students and retired physicians also asked for a government issued stay-at-home order.

“I know that everyone is exhausted,” OMA President Dr. Samantha Hill said in a statement on Monday. “The last year of living under restrictions, with fluctuating levels of fear, and serious visible inequities, have affected our social, mental and economic health. But right now, we are all in danger.”

The OMA called for a closure of all non-essential businesses, the immunization of all essential workers, disadvantaged workers and residents of hotspots, and paid sick leave for essential workers.

They also said that every Ontarian should take the first vaccination that is offered to them.

“We must implement our strictest level of public health measures. The consequences of not doing so could include more people sick and dying than we have experienced thus far; so many so, that doctors could no longer care for everyone,” Hill said.

Radio Canada International reached out to Ontario’s health ministry for comment, but they did not respond by press time.

With files from CBC News (Muriel Draaisma)

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