Haircuts and outdoor fitness classes will be allowed in Toronto and Peel Region
March 29, 2021
Haircuts and outdoor fitness classes are on the way back for Toronto, Peel Region and other lockdown zones, despite a continuing rise in COVID-19 cases and preparations to plunge regions back into shutdown if conditions suddenly worsen.
And Ontario is opening its vaccine booking portal and hotline to anyone 70 and older starting Monday, when the outdoor fitness classes and personal or group training for individual or team sports can resume with a maximum of 10 people staying three metres apart.
Barber shops, hair, nail and other personal care salons and body art shops are slated to reopen by appointment only and with capacity limits on April 12 in the lockdown zones soon to include Hamilton.
Premier Doug Ford said the changes come despite worsening COVID-19 trends -- with daily cases now at levels not seen since January, up 25 per cent in the last week and 69 per cent this month -- because Ontarians are “tired” of the pandemic.
But this is not a signal that it’s safe to “let your guard down,” he told a news conference Friday.
“Follow the protocols, keep your distance, wear a mask,” Ford said.
Haircutting in Toronto has been illegal since late November and the April 12 opening date -- providing it holds in the face of mounting case counts and hospitalizations -- would end 140 days of closures.
The date was hailed as “long overdue” by spokesman Ryan Mallough of the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses but came as Durham’s public health department declared an outbreak at a Supercuts on Kingston Rd. in Pickering, in a red zone where haircuts and indoor restaurant dining are permitted.
People who were patrons between March 18 and March 21 were warned of a “potential high-risk exposure,” asked to self-isolate for 14 days and advised to get tested immediately.
With the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care poised to surpass the second wave peak, and 12 patients on ventilators in GTA hospitals transferred Friday to ICUs as far away as Kingston to free up beds, Health Minister Christine Elliott said the government is watching hospitals “very carefully.”
“We have continued to see some concerning trends in key health-care indicators,” she added.
New daily infections topped 2,000 in each of the last two days. There were 401 COVID-19 patients in intensive care, not far below the high of 420 reached Jan. 15, a level at which non-emergency surgeries for other conditions such as heart disease and cancer are scaled back.
There were 74 new ICU admissions across the province in the last two days, said Anthony Dale, president of the Ontario Hospital Association.
“Patients are arriving at the hospital younger and sicker than in previous waves, and they require more care,” he added, echoing a number of doctors who have said the more contagious variants of COVID-19 are taking a heavy toll.
In another sign the third wave continues to build, Ontario’s chief medical officer Dr. David Williams said he is moving two health units to higher levels of public health restrictions effective Monday. Hamilton will move into lockdown and the Eastern Ontario Health Unit will move into the red zone, one level below.
Temiskaming in northeastern Ontario was pushed into the red zone Friday because of a 400 per cent increase in weekly cases per 100,000 residents. In recent weeks, Williams has moved Sudbury, the Sarnia-Lambton and Thunder Bay districts into lockdown and others higher in the framework of restrictions.
Preparing for the worst, with more contagious and severe variants of concern now accounting for more than 50 per cent of daily cases and growing, the government said Williams can now use his “emergency brake” powers to advise that regions be immediately shut down.
That decision would be made in consultation with local medical officers in the event of “a rapid acceleration” in transmission or if a region’s health system is at risk of being overwhelmed.
“This will provide an extra layer of protection as we continue to fight this virus,” said Williams.
“The latest data continues to show some worrying trends throughout the province, and variants of concern remain a significant threat to public health.”
Some critics said the government has eased restrictions too quickly despite widespread warnings in the health community about the more dangerous variants.“Vaccination will not happen fast enough to avert a health-care disaster if we follow the current course,” said Dr. Michael Warner, medical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital.