Global News has learned the Ontario government is currently planning to implement a provincewide lockdown beginning Christmas Eve.
The announcement is expected to come Monday afternoon at Queen’s Park from Premier Doug Ford.
According to sources briefed on the plans, as of Sunday afternoon, the government was expecting to implement a 28-day lockdown for most of the province, while the north would be subject to a two-week lockdown.
As part of the plans, elementary-age school children would not return to classes as scheduled after the holidays but would spend the first week of school in the new year at home doing virtual learning and then return on Jan. 11.
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In-class learning in high schools would remain closed for the entire 28-day period, though virtual learning would occur. It is unclear if the closure of in-class learning at high schools would be in place for 28 days for the entire province.
Under the grey-lockdown level of the province’s coronavirus response framework, restrictions include a ban on indoor social gatherings with anyone outside of your household, the closure of many non-essential businesses and most fitness facilities, and limiting restaurants and bars to take-out service only. It is unclear if all of the restrictions currently listed as part of the framework’s grey-lockdown level would apply.
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Global News has also learned that while Ford and his cabinet considered placing a curfew on the province, in the end, that idea was rejected. Shutting down airports in the province was also reportedly considered, and the Ford government rewed calls for rapid testing for airline passengers though the feds said they first want to see more data on rapid testing submitted to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
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Restrictions that currently exist on some big-box retailers in the hardest-hit areas in the Greater Toronto Area are expected to be extended to the rest of the province.
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In areas currently under lockdown, essential big-box retailers are subject to 50 per cent capacity limits and customers must be spaced out by two metres in lineups.
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Ford is also expected to extend restrictions on outdoor activities such as cross-country skiing or outdoor skating — restrictions that could, for example, see the opening of the Rideau Canal skateway postponed into late January. Indoor activity areas, such as municipal swimming pools, are also expected to be shuttered during the lockdown.
Ford is expected to describe this is as a “circuit-breaker” — aimed at breaking the chain of transmission that has caused case counts to quickly climb, putting pressure on many hospitals.
The premier is expected to provide more details at a press conference Monday.
On Friday, Ford said that he would be holding emergency meetings throughout the weekend amid a spike in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in Ontario.
Many health-care officials, as well as some Greater Toronto Area politicians — including Toronto Mayor John Tory — have called for stronger restrictions over the holidays in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19.
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The province did announce on Friday that as of Monday, some regions will move to stricter levels of restrictions under the coronavirus response framework. Among the areas affected is Hamilton, which will move into lockdown. Existing lockdowns in Toronto and Peel Region — which were set to expire — were extended.
Ontario reported 2,316 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, marking the sixth day in a row that figure has been above 2,000.
Twenty-five additional deaths were also reported.
— With files from Mercedes Stephenson
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