Canada

Ontario names COVID vaccine panel, tightens restrictions in three regions

The Ontario government will move three regions of the province into more restrictive zones Monday, even as a new task force met Friday to plan the roll out of COVID-19 vaccines.

Middlesex-London and Thunder Bay health units will transition to the restrict or orange zone and the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge area will be in the protect or yellow zone.

All other areas of the province — including York Region, which avoided lockdown — remain in their current spot in the COVID-19 colour-coded framework.

Stats Canada reported Friday that Toronto saw no increase in employment in November after moving into lockdown despite five previous months of growth and an overall boost in jobs in Ontario.

“There were declines in accommodation and food services (jobs) amid the tightening of public health measures in the city of Toronto and Region of Peel,” Stats Canada says.

Under lockdown, restaurants may only offer takeout or delivery service.

Ontario confirmed 1,780 new COVID-19 cases and 25 more deaths Friday. Toronto reported 633 new cases, Peel had 433,York 152 and Durham 94.

York has the highest number of cases per capita — 937 per 100,000 residents — for an area that is not in lockdown.

Meanwhile, Premier Doug Ford met Friday with his new vaccine task force, which is led by retired General Rick Hillier.

The other members of the task force include former Toronto Police chief Mark Saunders, infectious diseases consultant and internist Dr. Isaac Bogoch, trauma surgeon and Ornge air ambulance President and CEO Dr. Homer Tien, bioethicist and Western University Professor Dr. Maxwell Smith and Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald of Taykwa Tagamou Nation.

“What it means is hope,” Ford said at the meeting. “Giving people hope, getting the economy back up and running again, getting people’s lives back to normal, protecting our healthcare system along with our education system.”

NDP MPP Sara Singh said the government is holding its “inaugural” meeting of the vaccine task force just 10 days before the province is expected to have a ready-to-go roll-out plan in place.

“Doug Ford waited until the eleventh hour to get started on a vaccine plan,” Singh said in a statement.

aartuso@postmedia.com

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