“To summarize as simple as possible, guys, please, unless it is for an essential reason, please stay home because the situation is extremely serious now,” said Ontario premier Doug Ford during a news conference on Wednesday , adding: “What we do before we start to get mass immunization, there will be a difference between life and death for thousands of people.”
“Hospitalizations that occur as a result of these variants are taking over our hospitals,” said Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott.
Canadian public health officials now say that a rapidly spreading coronavirus variant is likely to be dominant in many parts of the country, and the worrying variants are making young people sicker and sending more to the hospital.
“This is not the news that any of us wanted, but hospitalizations are increasing, ICU beds are filling up, variants are spreading and even people who have convinced themselves that they needn’t worry are getting sick”, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a news conference on Tuesday, adding that this is a third “very serious” wave of the pandemic.
In Ontario, non-essential retail stores, including malls, will close for purchases in person, with only supermarkets, pharmacies and garden centers open to the public.
Dining rooms in restaurants, personal care services and gyms have already been closed across the province, as last week the provincial official closed many places, but stopped before placing an order to stay at home.
Ford said he was concerned about the mental health of the 14 million residents.
Toronto and the adjacent Peel region switched students to virtual learning earlier this week, just before the previously scheduled spring break. The Ford government says its priority is to keep schools open across the province.
Ford also imposed the province’s third state of emergency since the pandemic began.
Health experts, including the provincial hospital and medical associations, have been calling for more restrictions for at least two weeks, saying the blocking measures are not enough.
Although doses of the vaccine have been low in Canada, the launch is now increasing, with Ontario saying it set a vaccination record on Tuesday, administering more than 100,000 doses.
Ford said the province will begin deploying mobile vaccination teams in communities at critical points like Toronto, including providing vaccines for teachers and other education workers starting next week.
Outside Canada’s Atlantic provinces, the third wave of the pandemic is affecting hospitals across almost the country.
“Although COVID-19 continues to impact people of all ages in Canada, infection rates are highest among those aged 20 to 39 years. In addition, we are seeing more adults under the age of 60 , undergoing treatment for COVID-19 at the hospital, including intensive care units, “said Canada’s director of public health, Dr. Theresa Tam, in a statement released on Wednesday.
In his statement, Tam underscored the threat of the variants spreading and leading to more infections and serious illnesses.
“While B.1.1.7 remains responsible for most of the worrying variants in Canada and has probably replaced the original virus in some areas, there has been a worrying increase in cases of P.1 in recent weeks. Early evidence suggests that the The P.1 variant can reduce the effectiveness of vaccines, making it even more important to control their spread, “she said.