Ontario enters provincewide lockdown in effort to curb rising COVID-19 case counts

A provincewide lockdown meant to bring down COVID-19 case counts takes effect today in Ontario.

The restrictions will remain in place for southern Ontario until Jan. 23, but will lift for northern Ontario on Jan. 9.

The move was announced on Monday after the provincial government took part in emergency talks last weekend.

Under new rules, restaurants can only provide takeout, drive-thru and delivery, including the sale of alcohol.

Supermarkets, pharmacies and retailers that sell primarily food can stay open for in-person shopping but with distancing and limits on capacity.

When the holiday break is over, children enrolled in publicly-funded elementary and secondary schools will participate in remote learning from Jan. 4 to Jan. 8, and some longer depending on their age and area.

The province has stressed the need to follow public health guidelines over the holidays, including limits on gatherings.

No data on the number of new COVID-19 cases were released on Christmas Day, but Ontario reached a new high in daily cases on Thursday, with a tally of 2,447.

Earlier this week, the province released new modelling that showed so-called “hard” lockdowns lasting four to six weeks could bring daily case counts down to less than 1,000.

The projections showed the province will see 300 intensive care unit beds filled within 10 days, and possibly as many as 1,500 by mid-January under a worst case scenario.

The data also shows that deaths due to COVID-19 will continue to increase, especially in long-term care.

Ontario began administering the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to health-care workers earlier this month, and is poised to receive tens of thousands of doses of the newly approved Moderna shot by the end of the month.

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