Canada's most populous province announces partial shutdown to fight coronavirus
By Moira Warburton
TORONTO (Reuters) -Ontario, Canada's most populous province, on Monday announced a partial shutdown of some businesses from December 26th and banned most indoor gatherings as it comes to controlling a second wave of COVID-19.
Major retailers, such as those selling groceries, have to set capacity limits, while many other stores are only allowed roadside pickup. Indoor dining is prohibited.
"Thousands of lives are at stake," Ontario Prime Minister Doug Ford told reporters. "If we don't take action now, the consequences will be catastrophic."
The measures do not appear to be in line with the immediate four to six week "tough lockdown" that Ontario's own medical panel of experts had requested earlier Monday.
The partial shutdown applies to the entire province until January 9th and then to major cities and surrounding regions until January 23rd. The province announced 2,123 new cases on Monday, the seventh straight day the number topped 2,000.
However, Ontario isn't pushing many industries blamed for outbreaks in suburban areas around Toronto, such as manufacturing, food production, and storage facilities.
Ontario and neighboring Quebec together are responsible for 84% of Canada's 14,228 deaths from the coronavirus.
The Ontario Hospital Association said last week that the health system could hit a breaking point if people don't listen to calls to restrict gatherings.
Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of the COVID-19 science advisory team in Ontario, said earlier in the day, "Our ability to control case growth is still precarious."
Around 300 people are in intensive care units, but that could climb to 1,500 in mid-January, he told reporters, making it clear that Ontario needs to get a lockdown as soon as possible.
Ford, when asked why it wasn't moving faster, cited the large amount of inventory companies had built up before the Christmas break.
(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Toronto and Julie Gordon and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; writing by David Ljunggren, editing by Mark Heinrich and Steve Orlofsky)
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