Canada's most populous province makes clear 'hard lock down' needed to fight COVID-19

A mask-less Santa Claus poses with children from an unmasked group protesting against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions, as Toronto Police said the gathering had not been authorized by the city, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada December 20, 2020. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

TORONTO (Reuters) – Health officials in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, on Monday said their ability to control a second wave of COVID-19 was precarious and made clear a “hard lockdown” of four to six weeks was needed.

They made the remarks to reporters just hours before Ontario premier Doug Ford was due to unveil what local media say will be a range of restrictions lasting for a month. These include a shutdown of many non-essential businesses and gyms and limiting bars and restaurants to take out service.

The province announced 2,123 new cases on Monday, the seventh consecutive day the number has exceeded 2,000.

“Our ability to control case growth is still precarious,” said Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory team.

“Based on experience in France and Australia, ‘hard lock-downs’ of 4–6 weeks can reduce case numbers in Ontario to less than 1,000 per day,” he said in a presentation to media.

Other jurisdictions, he added, were six weeks to three months ahead of Ontario and most have used some form of hard lockdown, he added.

The Ontario Hospital Association last week said the health care system could hit breaking print unless people started listening to calls to restrict gatherings.

Around 300 people are in intensive care units but this could jump to 1,500 in mid-January, Brown said.

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