Ontario Premier Doug Ford is facing growing criticism over the latest shutdown. Some political opponents say it’s too little to late and many in the healthcare sector say his latest measures don’t go far enough.
“Effective Saturday, April the 3rd at 12:01 a.m., Ontario will pull the emergency brake for the entire province."
That was Ford’s announcement last week to a rising number of cases of COVID-19 in Ontario, to reverse the restrictions that were being eased, but not the lockdown many had expected and many in the healthcare sector had urged him to implement.
"We are about to go to war and we do not have the capacity either in beds or ventilators to care for these criticially ill patients,” said Dr. Kali Barrett, a critical care physician in Toronto.
About 150 doctors working in intensive care units were so angry and concerned, they sent a letter to Ford urging tougher measures.
‘The GTA is on fire with COVID-19, as are the hospitals that serve them," said Dr. Michael Warner, the medical director of care at Michael Garron Hospital, "and unless something changes now, this situation will get so far out of control that I don’t even want to consider what we might have to do if things don’t change.”
Warner said hospitals cannot keep adding 10-20 new patients a day to ICUs, as the capacity just isn’t there. He also said not enough is being done to protect people who go to work, knowing the risks, but forced to provide for their families.
Warner said a woman in her 40s died after contracting COVID-19 from her husband. He got sick after he was told to go work, despite an outbreak at the factory where he worked.
"If the government would just do the right thing and protect people, protect the people who are actually being hurt by this, the people that the premier never talks about in his press conferences," Warner said. "And I’m tired of it and so are my colleagues, and unless that changes, this four weeks (shutdown) is going to be a complete waste, because we will not have gone after the root cause, which is transmission in essential workplaces."
Dr. Abdu Sharkowy, an infectious disease specialist, is also angry with the Ford government’s approach He called it unconscionable."
"These people need our support, they need paid sick leave, they need isolation facilities, they need better testing, they need some guarantee that they don’t have to make a decision between having their families survive and putting food on the table, or ending up in an ICU on a ventilator," Sharkowy said.
Sharkowy said many low-income families have to send their children to school, where there are 30 kids in a class, where proper distancing is not possible, teachers don't have proper PPE, kids eat lunch unmasked and still no ventilation retrofitting. He said it’s a myth that schools are somehow immune to transmitting the virus.
Ford also faced sharp criticism from political opponents, including Andrea Horvath, leader of the New Democratic Party.
"I’m worried that this approach, that this failed approach is going to fail us again," Horvath said. "What we know is that the public health measures that this government has announced are not what experts are calling for. They fall short."
Doctors are urging the mayors of Toronto and the Peel Region to take matters into their own hands and impose tougher restrictions.
Meanwhile infections continue to surge in the province, with more than 3,000 cases a day for Friday and Saturday.