Ontario Premier Doug Ford has announced that because Covid-19 cases are accelerating at “an alarming rate”, the entire Canadian province will shut down from Saturday.
Ford called the closure a temporary measure at a news conference during which he implored residents to stay home except for essential needs like groceries and health emergencies.
“Unfortunately, despite previous restrictions, we’ve seen growing numbers of people traveling between regions within Ontario,” Ford said. “Covid is spreading rapidly from high-outbreak areas to areas with fewer cases.”
Ontario is Canada’s most populous province with 14 million people, just under 40% of the giant country’s population.
The shutdown will remain in effect for up to 28 days as Canada is plunged into its usual freezing winter.
Hospitalisations in the province have increased by 75% and ICU admissions are up by 80% in recent weeks, according to an official news release. The health system may have to cancel elective surgeries due to capacity concerns with thousands of surgeries already backlogged.
Regarding schools, Ford told reporters, “I want to be clear; schools are not part of the problem of Covid in our communities. But out of an abundance of caution, school closures over the winter break will be extended.”
The premier urged Canada’s federal government to close borders to prevent the spread from people arriving from outside.
Along with many other countries, Canada announced a ban on travellers from the UK this week.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a tweet the decision was made to keep Canadians safe from a new coronavirus variant discovered in England.