Coronavirus: Ontario shutdown set to begin on Boxing Day

For those looking to take advantage of Boxing Day sales across Ontario, most will likely have to stick to shopping online as a shutdown ordered by the Ontario government due to rising coronavirus cases comes into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday.

While the Ontario government will allow in-person shopping at supermarkets, convenience stores and pharmacies, those businesses must cap the number of customers at 50 per cent of approved capacity.

Discount and big-box businesses that sell groceries can operate, but capacity is limited to 25 per cent of the approved capacity “of the particular room.”

Other retail businesses, hardware stores and department stores will only be allowed to open for curbside pickup and delivery. Customers will not be allowed inside to do in-person retail shopping.

The restrictions come amid a strain facing Ontario’s hospitals as a result of the pandemic.

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In a joint statement released on Thursday by Premier Doug Ford and Deputy Premier Christine Elliott, they reported there has been a 74-per-cent increase in hospitalizations over the past four weeks and an 80-per-cent increase of patients being admitted to intensive care units.

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“The situation in our hospitals is serious and a reflection of the growing spread of COVID-19 in our communities. We need to halt the virus in its tracks to protect our loved ones, our vulnerable, our communities, and the essential workers whose dedication and sacrifice has never waivered,” they wrote, touting the arrival of 53,000 doses of the newly approved Moderna vaccine and the rollout of 90,000 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses.

“We know that people are making tremendous sacrifices, especially during this holiday season, but there is a light at the end of this very long tunnel.”

The restrictions coming into effect on Saturday will be in place for 14 days in northern Ontario and 28 days in southern Ontario. Officials said the regulations will be evaluated later on “to determine if it is safe to lift any restrictions or if [those] need to be extended.”

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Officials said trips outside of the home should only be done for essential reasons (work, school, groceries, exercise, caring for vulnerable people). Social gatherings and organized indoor events are restricted except for people who live in the same home. Those who live alone were told to consider associating with only one other household.

However, there are fears that the number of COVID-19 cases will get noticeably worse.

Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto, said Canadians should expect to see a “grotesque” spike in the number of COVID-19 infections after the holidays “because of family visiting.”

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“This will tend to be in homes, in close quarters, with shared air, for prolonged periods, without masks, and involving mixing people from different households,” Furness recently told Global News in a statement.

“Because COVID is already so prevalent in the community — far more so than say, at Thanksgiving which is a much smaller holiday — there will be a significant increase.”

To date, 165,110 people in Ontario have tested positive for coronavirus, 4,278 have died due to COVID-19 and 141,023 people were reported to have recovered from the virus. As of Thursday, 967 people were being treated in the province’s hospitals (277 of whom are in intensive care units).

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— With files from Hannah Jackson and The Canadian Press

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© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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