BY CLOVER STERLING
The consensus is clear — wait. Peel’s top doctor is requesting an extension of at least two weeks to get COVID cases on more stable footing, in tandem with announcements from Toronto’s medical experts. The region’s lockdown order is set to expire on Monday, but Peel’s medical officer of health, Dr. Lawrence Loh, says more time is needed to ensure that the risks are too high, and a third wave could occur sooner rather than later.
“(We need to) hold on for just two weeks more so that we can be sure that we’ll keep our kids in school for longer, continue to protect our vulnerable and continue to protect our essential workers as vaccines arrive,” Loh said Wednesday afternoon at a news conference in Mississauga, following similar sentiments by Toronto’s top doc, Dr. Eileen de Villa, earlier in the day.
Peel Region is still considered a hotspot zone in the province, alongside Toronto, York Region and North Bay – Parry Sound, even though positive cases are on a decline. With a new variant now having reached major municipalities, and amid mass testing of at least one condominium in Mississauga, several doctors are warning that the potential for community transmission remains high and the circulation of high-risk COVID variants may accelerate if the stay-at-home order is lifted too early.
In a joint letter to Dr. David Williams, the province’s top medical official, Dr.’s Loh and de Villa requested an extension to the stay-at-home order until Mar. 9, citing that the risks are too high and can lead to a third wave. Peel is tentatively set to reopen under the revised “red” framework on Monday
Continued from Pg 1 In a news conference Wednesday, de Villa told reporters that the city did not want to reopen for a few weeks just to close again, a sentiment shared by Loh during his comments later that afternoon. “Spillover to neighbouring regions will also continue to drive risk here in Peel for our residents who may choose to go,” Loh said.
27 regions in the province were moved back to the previous colour coded framework on Tuesday, reflecting the system that was used just before the province-wide lockdown began on Boxing Day. Most of the regions range from red-level restrictions, which involve lowered restrictions on businesses and gatherings, through to green level.
Of the reopened regions, Niagara is currently the only one in the “grey” lockdown level, meaning foot traffic is capped at 25 per cent for most businesses For his part, Premier Doug Ford said this week that the province was “transitioning into the framework that was laid out by the (province’s) health team,” and that he wouldn’t hesitate to “pull the brakes” again if needed. Likewise, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that no decision had been made as to whether Peel, Toronto and the other regions still in stay-at-home level will reopen Monday or if the order will be extended.
According to a technical briefing given by the province, anywhere from five to ten per cent of current cases within the province stem from the different variants of the COVID-19 virus, confirmed to originate from countries such as South Africa. A further stay at-home extension in the region could mean the difference between survival or closure for local businesses, which have already been dealing with restrictions on in person visits, and are facing the decision over whether to close for good or hold on until the spring.
In a report released last month, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) found that one in six small business owners in Canada are seriously contemplating closure of their business, while in Ontario, only 37 per cent of businesses are still fully open. “The beginning of 2021 feels more like the fifth quarter of 2020 than a new year,” said CFIB’s executive vice-president, Laura Jones, on Jan. 21.