Ontario is set to enter lockdown soon and hospitals have been warned of burden for front-line health-care workers in the face of new case numbers. Meanwhile news of an upcoming vaccine has given both hope and concern for residents across Canada.
Big news came out yesterday as we found out that Ontario will go into a lockdown on December 26 once again, forcing almost all non-essential businesses to close. The lockdown has been announced in an attempt to reduce COVD-19 cases, which continue to rise.
The new lockdown will start at 12:01 a.m. on Boxing Day and will last until January 23 across all southern Ontario regions, announced Ontario Premier Doug Ford.
"The number of daily cases continue to rise putting our hospitals and long-term care homes at risk," said Premier Ford. "We need to stop the spread of this deadly virus. That's why, on the advice of Dr. Williams and other health experts, we are taking the difficult but necessary decision to shut down the province and ask people to stay home. Nothing is more important right now than the health and safety of all Ontarians."
Ontario has reported another 2,202 cases of COVID-19 today (December 22). The number of sick patients in intensive care has reached its highest so far across any point during the pandemic. In Quebec, there have been reports of 2,183 new cases of COVID-19, with hospitalizations having risen to 1,055.
The province-wide shutdown will be similar to the one we had back in March, with only essential businesses such as pharmacies and grocery stores remaining open.
During the lockdown indoor public events and social gatherings will not be allowed except for those in the same household. It’s difficult news to hear in the few days that remain before Christmas.
"This was not an easy decision before the holidays, but we have reached a tipping point," said Minister Christine Elliott in the announcement.
"We continue to see sharp increases in hospitalizations and occupancy in intensive care units is reaching concerning levels. Urgent action must be taken to prevent our health care system from becoming overwhelmed. By implementing a Provincewide Shutdown, we can work to stop the virus in its tracks, safeguard hospital capacity, and save lives."
As of today, there have been more than 77 million cases of COVID-19 reported worldwide, with more than 43 million cases considered recovered or resolved. Source: Database maintained by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.
Toronto’s Mayor, John Tory, told reporters yesterday he was thankful to Ford for ordering the province-wide shut down, emphasizing the need to protect residents’ health.
“This kind of strong stand against the viruses is needed to save lives and to protect the health of each and every one of the residents of our city and our province,” Tory said.
“I support Premier Ford’s decision and I thank him for making the difficult but absolutely necessary decision that they made today.”
The call for the lockdown comes shortly after Anita Anand, Minister of Public Services and Procurement, announced on December 15 the good news that (after successful negotiations and depending on Health Canada's authorization of the vaccine) Canada will likely soon be able to access 168,000 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in December 2020.
“The Government of Canada continues to do everything possible to protect Canadians from COVID-19. This includes securing the world’s most extensive portfolio of vaccines and taking all necessary measures to ready the country to receive doses once they are authorized for use,” said Anand in the announcement.
Currently, the only vaccine authorized for the prevention of COVID-19 in Canada is the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Health Canada approved the vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech on December 9. Vaccinations started to be administered to health care workers providing care in hospitals and long-term care homes last week.
The release of the vaccine is part of Ontario’s Phase One of a three part implementation plan to receive, store and administer COVID-19 vaccines to Ontario residents as soon as possible.
"We are ready to receive these vaccines as soon as they become available thanks to the excellent work of our health care officials and General Hillier and the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force," said Premier Ford.
Health Canada continues to review the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and secure agreements with other companies for their vaccine candidates.
Over the weekend Health Canada received some final documents from the U.S. based biotech firm Moderna. This news suggests that the announcement of Health Canada authorizing its second COVID-19 vaccine will come soon.
The doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are part of the up to 76 million doses Canada has secured through its existing agreement with Pfizer. The Government of Canada has also purchased 422 freezers to store COVID-19 vaccines.
“We continue to prepare for distribution with provinces and territories, as experts and scientists of the government of Canada are assessing the safety of COVID-19 vaccine candidates. Canadians can be confident that when a vaccine is ready, Canada will be ready,” said Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health.
While the news of the authorization of a second vaccine on the way has sparked excitement and hope for many, voices have also already begun to warn Canadians not to see the vaccines as a replacement for COVID-19 safety measures. Premier Ford noted this concern in his announcement of Ontario beginning its rollout of COVID-19 vaccine.
"We have one of the most robust and comprehensive plans in the country and I am confident that all the necessary security measures and the advanced logistics systems are in place. The progress we are making is a welcome sign, but we must continue to be vigilant and follow the public health guidelines until vaccines are widely available."
People have begun to voice their concerns of people taking the vaccine as a panacea on social media. Canadians must remember that while the news of the vaccine is exciting, social distancing measures and face mask requirements are still a must!
The call from the public to Canadians to remember safety measures is much needed, as dozens of individuals still flout the rules on airplanes and in public spaces.
Covergalls friends and family - it’s been a hard year, and it looks like it will end on both good and bad news. Such is life! But as we rest, and try to relax, in these final days before the New Year please understand and share this message:
Chin up! Remember to be good and that small steps make big strides. Think of others and be thankful for that which we have as we end 2020.
P.S. Wear your mask!!
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