Infection rates in the Toronto, Ottawa, Windsor-Essex and Peel and York regions are all five to six times higher than rates in northeast and northwest Ontario, according to the latest data from inhabitants provided by the province.
The Kingston area medical officer of health – where the proportion of cases is less than a quarter of the provincial average – wrote to Premier Doug Ford this week asking him to consider a regional approach to alleviate the restrictions.
But Ford has now ruled out any geographic differences in the phasing out of pandemic measures.
In Quebec, restrictions will be lifted last in Montreal, which has been hit much harder by the new coronavirus than the rest of the province. Businesses outside the Montreal area have already been allowed to reopen, and elementary schools in the rest of Quebec are expected to resume classes on May 11, two weeks before the restrictions in Montreal end.
British Columbia first considered a regional approach, with a much lower infection rate in the north of the province. But British Columbia announced on Wednesday that there will be no regional differences in its elimination schedule.
“This virus does not recognize our geopolitical boundaries, so we must be careful and take these precautions across the province,” said British Columbia chief medical officer of health Dr. Bonnie Henry.
Ontario also questioned whether the restrictions should be removed more quickly in some areas. Ford recognized the regional variation in infection rates two weeks ago, and Finance Minister Rod Phillips said it was taken into account when the government prepared its framework for reopening economic activity.
But this week Ford firmly rejected the idea of treating any part of the province differently from the rest.
“The answer is no,” said Ford in response to Kingston’s request. “We have to manage the province as one unit. “
People across Ontario must “stay together, and together, we will succeed,” the Premier said Wednesday at the COVID-19 television press conference.
“If they loosen the restrictions in one area, guess where all the people of Toronto and the GTA go, if they want to go out to dinner?” They’re all going to flock to Kingston, and I don’t think it would be very fair for this jurisdiction to have everyone come in one go like this. “
“We ask the province to consider a regional approach to relaxing restrictions in places where COVID-19 is changing differently from other parts of the province,” reads letter from Kingston’s top public health doctor. , Kieran Michael Moore.
It was signed jointly by the mayor of the city and the municipal leaders of the neighboring counties of Frontenac, Lennox and Addington.
“If we look at the road ahead, living with this virus for a year and a half, a unique approach may not be the best,” Kingston mayor Bryan Paterson said in a phone call. interview Thursday.
Regional differences in the impact of the new coronavirus are more apparent when we compare northern Ontario with the rest of the province. The seven public health units north of Muskoka – an area of nearly 800,000 people – currently report a combined total of only 42 active cases of COVID-19.
No long-term care home in northern Ontario has had a cumulative total of more than four confirmed cases.
Provincial figures show that the hardest hit public health units are generally located in the largest cities in Ontario, but this trend is not absolute.
While Toronto has the highest number of confirmed cases per capita among Ontario’s 34 public health units, the second and third hardest hit are the predominantly rural areas of Leeds, Grenville and Lanark and Haldimand-Norfolk. Their high per capita infection rates are largely due to large outbreaks in retirement and long-term care homes.
The number of cases per capita in Hamilton is about half that of Ottawa and Windsor-Essex.