Greater Sudbury has been hit hard by COVID-19 in the past week, with an outbreak of the virus at Amberwood Suites retirement home resulting in four deaths so far in January.
Mayor Brian Bigger expressed his condolences to the families of those who lost loved ones to COVID-19, while stating that the Ontario government's support in protecting Sudbury and Northern Ontario is of the utmost importance.
"Clearly the threat against our community is real and we've seen an immense tragedy in just one week, so it tells you how quickly COVID-19 can spread and change the lives of so many people in our community," said Bigger.
The mayor said that it's known that the majority of COVID-19 cases in Greater Sudbury have been linked to travel, specifically with visitors coming to and from southern Ontario.
When questioned if the province should impose a Northern Ontario bubble and restrict travel from outside of the region, Bigger said that there were some challenges.
"I understand logistically that the call for roadblocks and other solutions is difficult but when people from southern Ontario are coming here when they're being told not leave home other than for essential purposes, they're not listening," said Bigger.
"It's up to the province to do their part. I really believe that we've done our part and I look forward to how Premier Ford will do his part."
Greater Sudbury is facing challenges apart from people from outside of the region travelling to Northern Ontario, as the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines has slowed around the province and Sudbury has been shuffled further down the queue.
"Part of our challenge is the vaccines are not yet here," said Bigger.
"Not one of the residents, not one of the workers associated with Amberwood has been vaccinated. It seems we've been shuffled down the list while we've done our part. We don't have any special immunity here in Sudbury, our greatest risk is people travelling here from COVID hot zones."
Bigger feels that the orders from the province in the face of the pandemic have been clear, but says that people have not been following them and it's time for the province to act in order to keep its residents safe.
"Short of everyone in Greater Sudbury being vaccinated we need the province to step up and do their part," said Bigger. "If it means checkpoints, they have the OPP. If there are other solutions and if they refer to our local police, then they need to change some legislation. Encouragement is not working and there are real impacts of people not following the province's suggestions."
The mayor doubled down on his earlier message when the provincewide shutdown was implemented, for Sudburians to stay home and stay within their own community.
"It's pretty straightforward, if everyone would stay within their own community each community could resolve COVID cases in their own way," said Bigger.
"We need some other action taken at the provincial level if we're not seeing vaccines. I'm not questioning the vaccine distribution, but if we don't have the vaccine in Greater Sudbury then I'm questioning what other actions are being taken to protect our citizens."