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In Canada’s largest city, the blocking and stay orders will be extended until at least March 8th.
Ontario Minister of Health Christine Elliott said Friday it was a difficult but necessary decision.
Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s health officer, asked the provincial government this week to extend the lockdown, saying it has never been concerned about the future of new coronavirus variants. Toronto Mayor John Tory backed the request, saying he wanted this to be the final lockdown.
The Toronto shutdown began on November 23 after a second novel wave of coronavirus hit the province.
Scientists say the British variant found in Ontario is more likely to spread and likely more deadly, but existing vaccines so far appear to be effective against it.
Canada had a shortage of vaccines until this week. The federal government expects six million doses before the end of March and more than 20 million more in April, May and June. Canada has 37 million people. The western Canadian province of Alberta plans to start vaccinating seniors aged 75 and over from Feb. 24, while teachers have not been given priority.
Schools reopened in Toronto this week, with retail stores slated to reopen on February 22nd.
“I know we are tired. I know we have all sacrificed so much. But there is hope on the horizon. The federal government has assured us that the vaccines we urgently need are on the way,” Ontario said Premier Doug Ford said.
The stay at home order was lifted for the majority of the province earlier this week as the government pushed for economic reopening despite warnings it could spark a third wave of infections.
Toronto and Canada previously flattened the epidemic curve and are doing so in this second wave.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said there are currently fewer than 33,000 active cases in Canada, a 60% decrease from a month ago. But Tam said Canada may not be able to avoid a rapid acceleration in daily cases, which are projected to reach 20,000 by mid-March, without continued vigilance.
“We are at a critical point in the pandemic and our efforts have begun to improve the balance in our favor,” said Tam.
“Protecting our advances and limiting the effects of worrying variants requires stronger action.”
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