Ontario not ready to lift stay-at-home order and should extend lockdown, OMA says

Ontario is not ready to lift the stay-at-home order and should extend the current lockdown measures past May 20, the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) says.

The OMA said the number of new COVID-19 cases daily, along with the current number of people in hospital, makes it unsafe to lift restrictions at this time. 

The organization does believe though that some restrictions on outdoor recreational activities, like golf, tennis and basketball, should be lifted to improve people’s mental and physical health.

"We all want the third wave to be the last wave," OMA President Dr. Samantha Hill said in a statement on Wednesday. "No one wants to start lifting restrictions too soon, only to find the virus spreading again and we have to go back into lockdown."

Hill said that extending the stay-at-home order past May 20 will increase the likelihood that Ontarians can enjoy a summer with less restrictions in place.

She also said it would lead to a "more normal" fall in Ontario. 

The OMA said the length the lockdown needs to be extended depends on a variety of factors, including how many people are vaccinated and when.

The organization said even when Ontario does start to reopen safely, it will take "weeks, and in some cases, months" before case counts start to fall significantly. 

The OMA believes that extending lockdown measures will ensure Ontario can reopen without having to close again.

"People are tired of restrictions being lifted only to be put in place again a few weeks later," OMA CEO Allan O’Dette said. "It is hard on the economy and hard on people’s livelihoods and mental health."

Earlier this week, Health Minister Christine Elliott hinted the stay-at-home order would be extended past May 20

The province did not say when that announcement will be made.

Chief Medical officer of Health Dr. David Williams said this week that Ontario would need to see daily COVID-19 case counts below 1,000 in order to significantly loosen restrictions.

"We do not want a fourth wave," Williams said at the time. "Slow and steady and stay open. That’s our goal."