There won’t be any in-person bargain-hunting taking place in Ontario this Boxing Day.
When residents across the province wake up Saturday morning, they will find themselves under a provincially-ordered lockdown brought in to try curb the runaway spread of COVID-19.
While Toronto, Peel Region, York Region, and other areas are already under lockdown, the province-wide order takes effect at 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 26.
The lockdown means the closure of all but a handful of businesses. Those deemed essential such as grocery stores and pharmacies will be allowed to stay open with capacity restrictions, but gyms, movie theatres and just about every other type of indoor business will have to close.
Stores and restaurants will still be allowed to offer curbside pickup and delivery.
Capacity restrictions will be tightened to 25 per cent per room at discount and big box retailers that sell food and are allowed to be open.
The new provincial lockdown comes as runaway community spread threatens to overwhelm hospital Intensive Care Units.
Earlier this month, hospitals in the province were told to prepare surge capacity plans in anticipation of an influx of COVID-19 patients.
Health officials have warned that serious surgeries and treatments – such as those for cancer, heart problems and other conditions – could be delayed if hospital ICU’s are overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients.
Despite pleas from elected officials and public health professionals, data have shown that people have not been staying home as much as they did during the restrictions in the spring
Ontario has been smashing through successive daily case records in recent weeks. While no numbers were reported by the province on Christmas, Ontario set a new daily record of 2,447 cases on Christmas Eve.
Despite promises that an “iron ring” would be extended around long-term care homes following the first wave in the spring, the virus has returned to long-term care homes with devastating effect in recent months.
As of Thursday, there were outbreaks at 162 long-term care homes in Ontario, meaning more than 25 per cent of all homes in the province are currently experiencing an outbreak.
The number of cases in schools was also climbing rapidly prior to winter break, forcing the province to implement a lengthened break from in-person learning. Elementary students in the province will learn virtually from Jan 4-8, while secondary students will learn virtually until returning to in-person instruction on Jan. 25.
Outbreaks among essential workers such as firefighters have also caused concern about a possible strain on essential services.
The lockdown will be in effect for the entire province until Jan. 9. After that, lockdown restrictions will continue for all 27 public health units in Southern Ontario until Jan. 23.