Toronto: Canada’s most populous province of Ontario has announced that it will enter a lockdown from Saturday in an effort to curb the fast spread of the novel coronavirus as the country is reeling under a second wave of the pandemic.
Ontario, with a population of 14.6 million, is the first Canadian province to announce to new lockdown amidst the second wave, reports Xinhua news agency.
The lockdown will begin at 12.01 a.m. on Saturday and remain in place until at least January 23, 2021 in the 27 public health units that comprise southern Ontario.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford told reporters on Monday that the virus is spreading rapidly from areas with a high number of cases to areas with fewer cases, and the province needs to preserve capacity in its healthcare system.
“This difficult action is without a doubt necessary to save lives and prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed in the coming weeks,” he said.
“Make no mistake, thousands of lives are at stake right now.”
The lockdown was originally set to begin on December 24 but was pushed back two days by the provincial government on Monday.
The province-wide lockdown will be similar to the shutdown back in March, with only essential businesses being allowed to remain open.
During the lockdown, no indoor public events or social gatherings will be allowed, except with members of the same household.
While the shutdown will begin a day after Christmas, Ford continued urging Ontario residents not to gather for the holidays.
“If we fail to take action now, the consequences will be catastrophic,” Ford said. “We need to do everything in our power to protect our hospitals and our most vulnerable.”
Ford said people should only leave home for essential trips such as work or groceries, however, the lockdown doesn’t include curfews or travel restrictions.
Canada has so far reported a total of 515,314 coronavirus cases and 14,331 deaths.
Ontario reported 2,123 new cases on Monday, bringing the provincial total to 158,053.
The province’s death toll reached 4,167 after 17 additional fatalities were reported in the last 24 hours.