Pembroke – In an attempt to curb the growing number of daily COVID-19 cases in Ontario, the provincial government announced Friday the declaration of emergency and strengthen enforcement of the province-wide stay-at-home order which will be extended for a total of six weeks.
While some people are upset with the extended lockdown, health officials and politicians are supporting the move.
“We all must follow the restrictions put in place by the province if we want to put COVID-19 behind us,” Dr. Robert Cushman, acting medical officer of health for Renfrew County and District Health Unit said shortly after the announcement by Premier Doug Ford. “This comes at a critical time as variants-of-concern continue to spread at a rapid rate.”
The new restrictions include, but are not limited to:
- No indoor social gatherings with members of other households. Individuals who live alone may consider having exclusive close contact with one other household. No indoor organized public events.
- Residents must remain at home at all times, with exceptions for essential purposes, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services, for exercise or for essential work.
- Outdoor gatherings with people outside a person’s household are prohibited, effective 12:01 a.m. Saturday, April 17.
- Capacity at religious gatherings, weddings and funerals will be limited to 10 people indoors or outdoors, effective 12:01 a.m. Monday, April 19. Social gatherings associated with these services such as receptions are prohibited, except for with members of the same household or one other person from outside that household who lives alone. Drive-in services are permitted.
- There will be checkpoints at provincial borders with Quebec and Manitoba with exceptions for essential travel, effective 12:01 a.m. Monday, April 19.
- Reduced capacity limits to 25 per cent in all retail settings where in-store shopping is permitted. This includes supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, indoor farmers’ markets, other stores that primarily sell food and pharmacies.
- Non-essential stores must open no earlier than 7 a.m. and close no later than 8 p.m., including hardware stores, alcohol retailers, and those offering curbside pickup or delivery.
- Closure of schools for in-person learning as of April 19, after Spring break.
- Businesses must ensure that any employee who can work from home does so.
- Non-essential construction, including construction at shopping malls, hotels and office towers, is prohibited.
- Closure of outdoor recreational amenities, including playgrounds, basketball courts and golf
The last order was adjusted on the weekend to allow playgrounds to remain open.
As well, Premier Ford retracted on giving police the ability to randomly stop people asking why they are not at home.
Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MPP and Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry John Yakabuski said Sunday night no one likes the latest action, but stressed it’s all part of the plan to bring the virus under control.
“Nobody wants to be where we are with regards to the challenges we are all facing here in Ontario with the number of cases and the requirement to try to get this virus under control,” he said. “It’s hard on everybody, but at the same time we don’t have much choice but to get this virus under control.”
Mr. Yakabuski said the combination of limiting mobility and administering vaccinations, particularly in the rabid hotspots that are happening now, are the tools the province has in its toolbox to try to manage the virus as quickly as possible.
“The decisions that are made at the end of the day are the decisions we have made,” he continued. “We know some people will agree with us and some people won’t. They’re not easy decisions, but those are the decisions the province has made.”
Mr. Yakabuski said he feels for everybody who finds the lockdown difficult, but added 16 months ago nobody really expected anything like this.
“This is not something that is happening only in Ontario. It is happening all around the world and has been much worse in other places.
“Right now it is really hot in Ontario and we are trying to get it under control so we can have some normalcy as soon as possible. Getting it under control all across the province and certainly in those hotspots that are really red hot right now is important.”
Mr. Yakabuski described the present as unique and difficult times. He extended thanks to his constituents for the patience they have shown in dealing with pandemic.
“I am just asking them to hang in there a little bit longer. We will get past this,” he noted. “It takes the efforts of everybody and I certainly re-emphasize that following the protocols is a huge part of this.
“We need people to be vigilant and to follow the protocols. There is a reason why we ask people to socially distance, to wear masks and also to maintain hygiene and sanitation.
He is also encouraging people to get the vaccination when they are eligible and continue to follow guidelines.
“Even if you have had the vaccine, like myself, you still have to practice those protocols,” he said. “It’s absolutely imperative that people follow those protocols. That’s why there are ebbs and flows.”
Mr. Yakabuski received his vaccination in Toronto a week ago Monday. Like Dr. Cushman, he received the AstraZeneca vaccine, saying he had no problem taking it.
- County Continuing To Work With Residents
The County of Renfrew along with local municipalities, the Renfrew County and District Health Unit, and Renfrew County Virtual Triage Centre are continuing to work collectively to ensure all measures are being taken to protect residents and staff during this difficult time. The county remains committed to providing services to residents in a timely and efficient manner during the continuing pandemic.
“Renfrew County residents have worked hard over these last several months to protect their own health and that of our community’s most vulnerable,”Warden Debbie Robinson said. “I ask that everyone remain vigilant about their safety and wellbeing both physically and mentally as this pandemic continues. I know it hasn’t been easy for many in our community during these difficult times.”
She said vaccinations are happening and with the continued efforts of following health guidelines this will come to pass.
“I also want residents to be assured that the County of Renfrew, along with all the local municipalities in the county, continue to make every effort to provide support where and when needed in our community,” she added.
All essential services continue to be offered, including regular road maintenance, Emergency Services (ambulance), Community Services and Housing, and development permits.
For more information relating to COVID-19, visit RCDHU’s website at https://www.rcdhu.com/novel-coronavirus- covid-19-2/ or call 613-732-3629 or 1-800-267-1097.