The Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) Public Health region will join the rest of Southern Ontario on Boxing Day in a 28-day COVID-19 lockdown.
“This difficult action is without a doubt necessary to save lives and prevent our hospitals from becoming overwhelmed in the coming weeks,” said Ontario Premier Doug Ford in an announcement on Monday, Dec. 21, 2020. “If we fail to take action now, the consequences could be catastrophic.”
The lockdown will mandate the closure of all non-essential retail, recreation facilities, dine-in service at restaurants, and other public events starting at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020. Ford said essential retail includes grocery stores and pharmacies. Other stores, as well as libraries, can still offer curbside pick-up and delivery.
Ontarians are asked to restrict indoor organized public events and social gatherings, except with members of the same household. Individuals who live alone may consider having exclusive close contact with one other household.
More details on the restrictions can be found here.
KFL&A Public Health is one 27 regions that the province is locking down for one month, ending on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. Other northern jurisdictions of the province will also lockdown Boxing Day, with restrictions ending Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021. Ford said the provincial government will evaluate as these deadlines approach whether or not they need to be extended.
The new measures come into play as Ontario reports 2,123 new COVID-19 cases for the day, with 40 more people hospitalized and four of those admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). There are currently 915 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Ontario and 265 in the ICU.
In the KFL&A region, Public Health reported on Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020 that three people are in hospital, and two in the ICU.
Ford said province-wide, hospitalizations have increased 70 per cent in the past several weeks, and ICU admissions have increased 80 per cent. He noted that normally, ICU beds are used to care for people suffering from car accidents, heart attacks and other emergenices.
“Above all, we need to preserve capacity in our ICU units and our hospitals,” he said. “We’re on the verge of cancelling more elective surgeries and we already have thousands and thousands backlogged… We’ve seen in other jurisdictions what out-of-control case loads look like,” he added.
Schools & childcare centres
While the school year is scheduled to resume from holiday break on Monday, Jan 4, 2021, classes will be taught remotely for the first week. Elementary students will not return to the physical classroom until at least Monday, Jan. 11 2021. Secondary students will not resume classroom learning before Monday, Jan 25, 2021.
Childcare centres, as well as in-home childcare, will remain open during the lockdown period. From Monday, Jan. 4 to Friday, Jan. 8, 2021, when students are doing remote learning, childcare centres are prohibited from accepting school-aged children.
Provincial approach aims to stop travel
Kingston just moved up into the Orange: Restrict level of Public Health restriction on Monday, Dec. 21, 2020. Under these guidelines, restaurants and all types of retail can still operate until the end of the week, with restrictions on indoor capacity and service times.
Toronto, Peel Region, York Region, Windsor-Essex and Hamilton are already at the Grey: Lockdown level.
Ford noted that travel between regions of the province is on the rise. “COVID-19 is spreading. As it does, our hospitals are filling up more and more each day,” he said. He suggested that locking down some jurisdictions while leaving others open would simply lead to “floods” of travellers from one area to another.
He is asking people to stay home as much as possible and avoid travel.
New small business support grants
The government had previously announced that small businesses might be eligible for a $1,000 grant to assist with COVID-19 costs, including the purchase of PPE, property tax or energy bills. Ford said the finance minister will be overhauling the existing programs to offer more financial assistance to small business owners, expanding the value of grants to between $10,000 and $20,000 for eligible small business owners.
According to the Ontario government, small businesses required to close or restrict services under the Province-wide Shutdown will be able to apply for this one-time grant.
“Each small business will be able to use the support in whatever way makes the most sense for their individual business. For example, some businesses will need support paying employee wages or rent, while others will need support maintaining their inventory,” the government said.
Eligible small businesses include those that:
- Are required to close or significantly restrict services subject to the Province-wide Shutdown effective 12:01 a.m. on December 26, 2020;
- Have less than 100 employees at the enterprise level; and
- Have experienced a minimum of 20 per cent revenue decline in April 2020 compared to April 2019.
More information on the support grant is available here.
News outlets had shared rumors over the weekend that the lockdown was coming, initially expected to start at midnight on Thursday, Dec. 24, 2020, Christmas Eve. Ford said the lockdown decision was taken after a full weekend of deliberation by senior provincial leadership.
“The hard truth is that [COVID-19] is not going anywhere until we’re able to vaccinate more Ontarians,” he said, noting that the vaccine is starting to “trickle in.”
“Tough times don’t last, but tough people do,” he added. “The vaccines are on their way, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and I’m asking everyone to stay strong just a little bit longer.”