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Health experts call on province to tighten pandemic restrictions in big cities and hot spots

A group of 38 health experts have signed an open letter calling for swift and decisive action from the Ontario government

New COVID-19 case numbers in Ontario are rising too quickly and it's time for the province to step in to get them back under control.

That is the message from 38 health experts, including two from Waterloo Region, who have signed an open letter calling for a crack-down.

The letter calls on the Ford government to tighten restrictions on non-essential businesses and activities the signatories say lead to people gathering too closely together.

Those include dine-in restaurants, bars, nightclubs, gyms, theatres, and places of worship. The doctors are also calling for non-essential businesses to return to working from home and for universities and colleges to return to online classes wherever possible.

Dr. Andrew Morris is an infectious diseases specialist at Sinai Health and University Health Network, and a professor at the University of Toronto, he says it's close but not quite a call to return to Stage 2.

"One of the things that we're trying to prioritize is the importance of maintaining kids at schools," said Morris, adding that will be difficult without lowering community numbers or at least keeping them at current levels.

The group of experts say what is happening in the province is entirely predictable.

"Because of the increased numbers that we're seeing, I would anticipate that we're going to see an ongoing rise for the next three or four weeks as a minimum unless there are further public health measures above and beyond altering our testing strategies," Morris said.

Now Morris said there is a fine line to walk between quality of life and keeping people safe.

"And so we really need to get those numbers back down so that we can allow ourselves to normalize," he said. "Unfortunately, one can't even imagine right now increasing our social freedoms."

As for targeting businesses and activities that facilitate social gatherings, Morris said these are the types of places we're seeing most of the spread.

"I think if we could get all members of society minimizing the size of their indoor social interactions, optimizing physical distancing, and wearing masks, we'd really go a far way to getting control of this situation," said Morris, "The challenge we have is that we've provided people with mixed messages around what is safe."

He says people see restaurants and theatres filled with 50 to 100 people and they may ask themselves, if it's okay for a restaurant, what's different with our homes.

"So what ends up happening is we end up having communities that have a psyche that it's okay for us to let our guard down because it's really not so bad," said Morris.

"We want people to socialize," said Morris. "Our challenge is that when people don't socialize responsibly it has effects on the whole community, not just those people who aren't socializing responsibly."


Casey Taylor

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