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Christmas lockdown: Regional approach ‘not enough’ to fight COVID-19, PHSD says

Health unit with case counts rising in other parts of Ontario, North is not immune to pandemic threat
161120_LG_COVID reporting changes PHOTO

On Dec. 26, Greater Sudbury and Northern Ontario will enter a 14-day temporary lockdown as the province takes a harder line in attempting to rein in the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, chief medical officer of health with Public Health Sudbury & Districts, said even though the case count locally is low, the lockdown is necessary, explaining that a regional approach is simply not a strong enough response to a virus with potential to overwhelm hospitals and hamper the ability of the health-care system to provide care.

“Today’s announcement recognizes that a province-wide approach is needed to slow the spread of COVID-19 as it threatens to overburden our health care system and our public health system across the province,” Sufcliffe said. “We have worked hard to keep our case counts manageable, but unfortunately, a regional approach is not enough. 

“We are not immune to this threat in the North and, as we’ve seen in other jurisdictions, things can change very quickly. As case counts rise it becomes more difficult to continue to protect the health of individuals and our health systems.”

The Greater Sudbury area was moved to the Green-Protect level under the province’s pandemic response framework on Dec. 18. Once the 14-day lockdown has ended, the region will revert to back to the Green level, depending on conditions on the ground, said the health unit.

Public Health explained the temporary lockdown measures that are in place (you can find more details on the lockdown announced yesterday here) are similar to those in place last spring during Stage 1 of the pandemic.

“Individuals are expected to stay home as much as possible except for essential reasons, work remotely, and avoid anything but essential travel,” the health unit said in a news release.

As of Dec. 26:

  • Only gathering indoors with the people you live with. Individuals who live alone may consider having exclusive close contact with one other household;
  • No indoor organized public events are allowed;
  • Outdoor organized events and social gatherings are limited to 10 people and physical distancing must be maintained;
  • No in-person shopping in most retail settings. Essential retail outlets will remain open and must follow capacity limits (25 per cent capacity for in-store shopping in big-box stores and 50 per cent capacity for supermarkets, grocery stores and pharmacies);
  • No indoor access to shopping malls unless in a designated indoor pickup area (by appointment only) or to go to an essential retail outlet;
  • No indoor and outdoor dining. Take out, drive-through, and delivery may continue;
  • Indoor and outdoor recreational fitness facilities will close. Outdoor recreational amenities will remain open for individual use with public health measures in place;
  • Post-secondary institutions are open for virtual instruction, with limited exceptions (for example clinical training and trades);
  • Students will participate in virtual school from Jan. 4 to Jan. 8, with in-person attendance resuming Jan. 11. These changes do not apply to schools on First Nations.
  • Child care centres will remain open during the shutdown. During the period of virtual learning (Jan. 4-8), school-aged children cannot attend to limit exposures. The Ministry of Education will implement a targeted emergency child care program for school-aged children.
  • Find further details here.

“We are being asked to sacrifice again to keep our families, our communities, and our health systems safe. This requires another big effort at a time when all have given so much,” Sutcliffe said. “This is hard, but it is temporary, and we can be reassured by the vaccines that will soon arrive.”