BY CLOVER STERLING AND ALEX GREGORY
The COVID-19 vaccine has finally made their way to the first front-line workers in Peel Region — but residents remain out of luck this holiday season, as a renewed lockdown will keep the region frosted over until the end of January. Peel, and the rest of the province, heads into its second extended lockdown beginning on Boxing Day, due to a rapid surge in cases and fears from multiple levels of government that a new COVID-19 strain originating in the U.K. could make its way to Canada.
Non-essential businesses will remain closed through at least Jan. 23 in all southern regions of the province, with indoor public events and social gatherings being prohibited under current municipal and provincial by-laws. The provincial-level lockdown will work similarly to the March lockdown, but essential businesses are allowed to remain open. Facing a wave of criticism over rising cases, Premier Doug Ford said the move was necessary in the coming weeks to save lives and reduce the number of people visiting their hospitals.
“If we get tired of taking action now, the consequences can be devastating,” Ford said Monday about the lockdown. The decision to shut down the province on Dec. 26 appeared to be a step back from the original plan to close the province on Dec. 24, based on reports from sources within Ford’s cabinet. “The reality is that this strictness will not go away until more Ontarians are vaccinated.”
“I support Premier Ford’s decision on a province-wide shutdown,” Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie echoed after the announcement Monday. “While I and many others in Mississauga were hoping that we would be moved out of lockdown by the New Year, this is regrettably not the case.”
“The reality is that while COVID-19 case numbers in Peel are beginning to plateau, the situation at our hospitals remains dire, with elective surgeries being cancelled and patients being transferred to neighbouring regions to make room for a surge in Tullamore Care Community personal support worker Vilma Whyte became Brampton’s first recipient of the Pfizer COVID‐ 19 vaccine, during an event held at Brampton Civic Hospital on Dec. 22, 2020. Hospital officials and city officials made it clear that the situation continues to be tenuous across the city’s health system.
(WOHS) COVID patients,” Crombie said. The lockdown came as the first doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine were administered to health care workers in Brampton and Mississauga. At Brampton Civic Hospital, Tullamore Care Community personal support worker Vilma Whyte became the city’s first recipient of the vaccine, while hospital officials and city officials made it clear that the situation continues to be tenuous across Brampton’s health system.
“It’s a great relief today that “V-Day” has arrived in Brampton,” said Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown Tuesday, during a media event hosted at the hospital. “We’ve been hit really hard by this pandemic. We have so many essential workers on the front line… this was desperately needed.” The hospital system, which includes Brampton Civic, Etobicoke General Hospital and Peel Memorial Centre, currently has 27 confirmed COVID-19 cases in its ICU and is still maintaining the ability to add capacity due to transferring patients to neighbouring regions in the GTA.
“We’re working as a system,” said Osler’s chief operations officer, Kiki Ferrari, who called the situation “extraordinary” and credited the hard work of hospital staff and donations from the community for helping ease the stress on the system. Peel logged an additional 448 confirmed cases Wednesday, and it is expected that a post- Christmas bump will drive case counts higher. In a press conference held after Tuesday’s event, Ferrari said that Osler has planned for a post-holiday surge and will be taking appropriate measures.
Publicly funded elementary and secondary schools will also be closed until at least Jan. 11, with learning transferring to online models. Elementary schools in southern Ontario will also be able to start in-person learning from Jan. 11, while secondary school students in Southern Ontario will not be allowed to return to classes until Jan. 25. Peel’s medical officer of health,
Dr. Lawrence Loh urged residents Tuesday to only celebrate Christmas with the individuals in their household, and refrain from taking non-essential trips. “Every interaction presents a risk of transmission of COVID-19,” said Loh.