These were Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s opening remarks at a COVID-19 briefing on Nov. 20.
Well, good afternoon. Dr. Yaffe and Dr. Huyer pointed out yesterday nearly 80 per cent of the cases reported over the past few days are from regions now in the red control zone. Across the province in the last week, hospitalizations have increased by 22 per cent. Intensive care unit admissions grew by nearly 50 per cent.
We are now teetering on the edge of having to delay scheduled surgeries. In fact, some hospitals like Scarborough Health Network have already had to delay surgeries.
My friends, I’ve been clear on this. The situation is extremely serious and further action is required to avoid the worst-case scenario where the rate of the community spread is the greatest, the risk to our schools, our long-term care homes, hospitals, is the greatest. We cannot put in-class learning at risk. We can’t risk widespread outbreaks in our long-term care homes. We cannot risk overwhelming our hospitals.
To protect our most vulnerable, to protect what matters most, we have to get the community spread under control. Since September, following the advice of our health experts, we’ve taken incremental steps. We’ve taken decisive action to slow the spread by introducing public health restrictions, increasing testing, contact tracing and enforcement. At the same time, we’ve invested billions of dollars to increase capacity in our health-care system. These steps, that help thanks to our collective efforts, have saved lives.
But this virus, it spreads like wildfire. And in certain parts of the province, it’s spreading at an alarming rate in the community. Last week, our modelling showed that if nothing was done, we could face 6,000 new daily cases in the coming weeks—overwhelming our ICUs shortly after that. More deaths, more losses. But we can avoid this if we take further action now.
So after extensive consultation with the chief medical officer of health and the Public Health Measures Table, effective Monday, Nov. 23, at 12:01 a.m., Toronto and Peel will be moved into lockdown. Minister Elliott will walk you through the details in a moment.
My friends, I know these past few months have been extremely difficult. COVID fatigue is setting in on all of us. But I’ve seen the strength of our people, and it’s up to each and every one of us to determine our future, to write the next chapter of our history. And we all have a part to play.
We must all rally around our business and our neighbours right now. We must support them. Our government will be there to do our part. We will spare no expense to support these businesses. Today, we’re doubling our supports for businesses impacted by these measures.
I’ve directed that up to $600 million in relief be made available immediately to help these businesses with fixed costs—including help with their hydro bills and property taxes. We will be there for these folks. Businesses can apply today for this relief and for PPE grant at ontario.ca/covidsupport. And together, as a province, we can all make a difference.
Please shop local. If you’re shopping online, I know it can be easy just to go with Amazon. But please remember that you can buy the exact same product from a local store. Please buy from local stores. Please do your holiday shopping through curbside pickup or online stores. Support our restaurants and order takeout. And to be clear, groceries, pharmacies, big-box stores will remain open safely with capacity limits to make sure you can access all the goods you need.
So please, folks, avoid panic-buying right now. I’m going to repeat that. Please avoid panic-buying right now. There’s no need to buy more than you need for a week or two. By avoiding the panic-buying, we can make sure that supply chains are not impacted and there’s enough for everyone.
I know this is difficult news today. It’s not where we want to be. But my friends, I have faith. Ontario will weather through this storm together. Please look out for each other. Please stick together. Because in this darkest hour, we see what we’re made of. We see what we can endure. And we will endure, we will persevere, and we will get through this. Thank you, and God bless the people of Ontario.