Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, has directed all its schools to teach virtually in response to soaring coronavirus cases numbering more than 4,000 a day. As cases rise, officials warn they may have to activate a field hospital in a Toronto parking lot to accommodate the rising hospitalizations.
Schools in Toronto, the country’s largest city, were already shut since last Wednesday. Now the online-only order will be province-wide, the Toronto Star reported. Hospitals in the city are bringing in medical workers from around the province as they struggle to treat an influx of patients, many coming in already extremely sick.
Provinces have been rotating through restrictions and lockdowns since last March in response to coronavirus case and hospitalization numbers, with little end in sight. Currently, a third wave of more infectious strains is battering the country and sending younger and younger people to the hospital with severe cases; British Columbia reported its highest ever hospitalizations and risks being overwhelmed within a month unless more restrictions are implemented, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported.
“When your case numbers in the community are so high, you’ve got to get them down quickly because right now your healthcare system is being threatened to be stretched beyond capacity,” Infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch told CTV News. “You don’t have a ton of options at your disposal to help rapidly bring cases down and sadly, sadly, a lockdown will help with that front.”
He and other experts warn the only way out of the cycle of lockdowns is through mass vaccination. “The goal is really to vaccinate as many people as possible over the shortest period of time as possible. And frankly, that will really alleviate a lot of this cycling of lockdown and doubt,” he added.
Some of an increasingly frustrated public have taken to the streets. In Montreal, riots broke out, with hundreds of protesters smashing stores and setting fires in response to a newly implemented curfew.