Ontario hospitals call for 4-week lockdown in hard-hit regions to slow COVID-19 spread

TORONTO — Ontario’s hospitals are calling for new and stricter lockdowns in hard-hit regions to halt the rapid spread of COVID-19, a request that comes as the province reported a record high in daily cases.

The Ontario Hospital Association said Thursday that it was urging the government to implement a four-week lockdown in every public health unit with an infection rate of 40/100,000 population or higher.

It also said the province’s current lockdown restrictions should be “rapidly” reassessed by independent experts to determine if additional measures are required.

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“The situation is extremely serious,” the hospital association said.

“We are now in the holiday season and if members of the public choose to ignore public health measures and gather outside their households, the consequences risk overwhelming Ontario’s hospitals. Every health care system has its breaking point.”

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The association also said the province should offer paid sick leave and isolation accommodation to help those who cannot afford to take time off work if they contract the virus.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Several Ontario hospitals told to be ready to implement surge capacity within 48 hours'

Coronavirus: Several Ontario hospitals told to be ready to implement surge capacity within 48 hours

Coronavirus: Several Ontario hospitals told to be ready to implement surge capacity within 48 hours

“This expanded lockdown would provide a valuable opportunity for the Government of Ontario to reset and recalibrate the components of its response to ensure that we are able to gradually re-open safely,” it said.

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Ontario reported a record 2,432 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, and 23 new deaths due to the virus.

In total, 919 people are hospitalized in the province due to COVID-19, including 263 in intensive care. The government said 172 of those people are on ventilators in hospital.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said the government is “very concerned” about increasing community spread of COVID-19 across the province.

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“We know that it is affecting hospital capacity,” she said. “Many hospital are at full capacity now and have had to postpone, once again, the surgeries and procedures that were postponed during wave one.”

Elliott said the government is in contact with the hospital association but would not say if it will act on its recommendations.

“We are very aware of (their) concerns,” she said. “We receive those numbers on a daily basis.”

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath called on the government to at least consider the hospital association’s plan, saying Premier Doug Ford did not do enough during the summer to prevent the second wave.

“Doug Ford chose not to invest in stronger public health measures,” she said in statement. “And now we’re facing a longer, deeper and darker lockdown as a result.”

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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