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Ontario applies ‘emergency brake’ lockdown to Thunder Bay, Simcoe-Muskoka

Monday, March 01, 2021 @ 12:00 PM | By John Schofield


Spurred by rising COVID-19 case counts and variants of concern, Ontario has moved the Thunder Bay and Simcoe-Muskoka areas into the Grey-Lockdown level of public health restrictions effective March 1.

In consultation with local medical officers of health, the province is implementing its so-called “emergency brake” in the two public health districts.

“This is due to a rapid worsening in key public health indicators, as well as a high presence of variants in the Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit that continue to increase — the highest in the province,” said a Feb. 26 government news release. “As of February 23, 2021, there has been a total of 170 confirmed cases of a variant of concern in this region.”

On March 1, Ontario reported 1,023 new COVID-19 cases and six more virus-related deaths, the lowest single-day death toll since late October. The rolling, seven-day average of new deaths is now 16, down from 24 at the same time the previous week. The rolling, seven-day average of new cases is at 1,099, up from 1,045 at the same point last week. The total number of cases of the B.1.1.7 or U.K. variant sits at 535.

Based on local public health indicators, the government also announced changes for seven other public health districts, based on its colour-coded, COVID-19 response framework. Under the revised framework, stores in Grey-Lockdown areas are still permitted to open with no more than 25 per cent customer capacity, mandatory masking and distancing.

As of March 1, Niagara Region Public Health will move into the Red-Control zone. Three districts will move to the Orange-Restrict category: Chatham-Kent Public Health, Middlesex-London Health Unit and Southwestern Public Health. Meanwhile, the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit and Huron Perth Public Health will move to Yellow-Protect, and the Grey-Bruce Health Unit will move to Green-Prevent.

A stay-at-home order and shutdown measures will continue to apply for Peel Public Health, Toronto Public Health and North Bay Parry Sound District until at least March 8, depending on key public health indicators and consultations with local medical officers of health. All other public health regions will remain at their current level. A full list of public health region classifications is available at Ontario.ca/covidresponse.

In a Feb. 26 news release, Judith Monteith-Farrell, MPP for Thunder Bay-Atikokan with the Official Opposition NDP, said the provincial government of Premier Doug Ford should have sent help earlier to help the Thunder Bay area avoid its third lockdown.

“We called for help again and again, but Doug Ford didn’t want to spend the money,” she said in the release. “Now he’s pulling the so-called emergency brake so late, we’re already in the middle of a wreck.”

In a March 1 news release, the Ontario NDP said that a vote on its proposed Stay Home if You Are Sick Act was scheduled for March 1 at the legislature, and it urged all-party support for the proposed legislation. If passed, the bill would give workers 14 government-paid sick days during a pandemic, on top of permanent paid sick days that would be embedded in employment law. The NDP has repeatedly criticized the government for not improving sick day provisions for workers during the pandemic. 

London West NDP MPP Peggy Sattler, who first introduced the proposed legislation last year, said in the release that she would move a unanimous consent motion for all-party support to hold the third and final vote immediately following the regularly scheduled second vote March 1, which, if passed, could put the paid sick days in place as early as this week. The majority Conservative government is not expected to support the proposal. 

“No worker should be forced to choose between going to work sick or taking a pay cut,” she said. “Workers without paid sick days are the people we have relied on most during the pandemic.”

If you have any information, story ideas or news tips for The Lawyer’s Daily please contact John Schofield at john.schofield@lexisnexis.ca or call 905-415-5891.