Sources: Ontario Schools to Stay Closed, Further Restrictions Coming to The Province.

By Charlie Senack, Manotick Messenger

A tougher round of restrictions for Ontario is expected to be announced tomorrow in the fight to battle COVID-19. 

Premier Doug Ford and his government held a rare Sunday cabinet meeting to discuss additional measures the province could take, after case counts continue to climb at record-breaking rates. 

On the first day of 2022, Ontario recorded over 18,000 new infections, with over 16,000 more reported on Jan. 2. 

In Ottawa, the city reported 2,425 new infections between Saturday and Sunday. The capital now has a total of 8,593 confirmed cases. These numbers are expected to be much higher in reality, however a lack of testing doesn’t allow for a clear picture to be painted. 

Sources out of Queens Park says the government is looking to close restaurants for indoor dining, and limit capacity at non-essential retail to 25 per cent. Essential retail would still be capped at 50 per cent. Private indoor gatherings would be reduced down to five from 10, and gyms would either close or face tighter capacity restrictions. These reports have not yet been confirmed.

On Dec. 19, the province did introduce a new round of restrictions which called capacity to 50 per cent in almost all indoor settings including: restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theatres, gaming establishments, and personal care settings among others. 

Last week Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Kieran Moore, announced that a return to school would be delayed by two days, and classes would resume on Jan. 5. When word that Ford was meeting with his cabinet came out, early reports suggested this date would not change, however one top Doctor is now saying otherwise. 

On Sunday night, Dr. Abdu Sharkawy, who is also on the provinces science table, said schools in the province would remain closed for two weeks. 

“(Ontario government) to announce (imminently) schools will go online for the next two weeks,” he tweeted. “As bitter a pill for some who will struggle mightily during this time, this will afford some needed time to upgrade safety measures, defuse the surge of Omicron.”

None of these restrictions have been officially announced by government officials. 

On Sunday morning, Ottawa’s top Doctor Vera Etches sent out a statement saying she believed schools in Ottawa should open, this despite calls from teachers unions to do the opposite. Etches noted the impact closures could have on children’s mental health, and the fear of COVID being spread more throughout the community. Reaction to her comments was divided, with some agreeing that in-person learning is safe, and others saying many of her comments didn’t make sense. 

Etches also noted that much of the transmission among youth in Ottawa has come from organized sporting events and other extracurricular activities. In Barrhaven, an outbreak at a martial arts centre led to more than 45 infections. Those cases then entered local schools where multiple outbreaks were then declared. 

The worst outbreak was at Half Moon Bay Public School, which claimed to almost 70 infections. The majority were among students, with a few spread out among staff, and one third party case. These numbers don’t take into account family members and others who later tested positive as a result.

Etches says she is now working with the province to implement additional measures when it comes to indoor sporting events, possibly putting a pause on them all together. For a few weeks now Ottawa’s top Doctor has urged parents to limit their children’s extracurricular activities, and to not attend organized sports. 

The province has also announced they will no longer report active COVID-19 infections in schools, which is leaving many frustrated. Some people feel it’s being done as a way to cover up how bad the situation is getting, the NDP calling it “terrifying for parents.”

This is a developing story. More to come…