Province ponders leaving Toronto, Peel in strict lockdown

Canada's largest city Toronto wants lockdown extended

Toronto's mayor, top doctor and emergency management boss announced they want the metropolis to remain under Ontario's toughest restrictions until at least March 9, two weeks longer than planned.

Toronto and Peel top doctors are both calling on the province to keep them in lockdown until at least March 9.

There are now confirmed cases of the UK, South African, and Brazilian COVID-19 variants in the province.

Ontario has said it will consult with all medical officers in each of the regions before deciding on where the regions will be placed in the newly implemented color-coded system.

Toronto reported the highest number of new infections with 376 while Peel had 264 and 108 in York Region.

"I have never been as anxious about the future as I am today", said medical officer of health Dr. Eileen de Villa. They are concerned that the spread of contagious new variants could potentially lead to a third wave of COVID-19. "The worst mistake we could make right now is to ignore the advice of our medical experts and to begin to re-open too quickly". But there are "about five times" that many - another 283 cases - that have screened positive for variants of concern and are undergoing further testing, de Villa pointed out.

Most of the province has already transitioned into the government's colour-coded reopening framework, which governs what restrictions are in place in each region depending on the current COVID-19 situation.

"By the time the confirmed case counts are big enough to shock us it will be too late to do anything, we will be in a third wave as bad as anything we have been through thus far", de Villa said.

York Region's medical officer of health, however, has said his community is ready to see an easing of the strictest measures.

York Region has asked to be moved to the red-control zone. Under that category, people can access fitness facilities and dine indoors at restaurants, with limits on capacity.

"I'm not expecting to not get our wishes, but ultimately it is the province's decision", he said in an interview Thursday.

New recommendations from the National Advisory Committee say all adults in Indigenous communities should receive a COVID-19 vaccine in the second stage of the immunization campaign to start this spring. The province also said 27 tickets were issued last week to people accused of breaking public health orders - more than half of which were for not wearing a mask in an indoor public place. He said giving the option for people do their work in regulated environments will hopefully discourage other such incidents.

The North Bay area had relatively few COVID-19 cases until earlier this month, when virus variants were detected in a cluster of cases at an apartment building.

Toronto officials point out that Germany saw its proportion of United Kingdom variant cases increase by 22 per cent in two weeks while closer to home, Newfoundland and Labrador has had nearly 300 cases linked to the United Kingdom variant after confirming just over 700 total COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.