Ford defends lockdown in Ottawa as Watson questions its need

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is standing firm on the decision to put Ottawa into a lockdown on Boxing Day, despite comments from the city's mayor and medical officer of health that stricter measures aren't warranted.

All regions of southern Ontario set to enter 28-day lockdown on Boxing Day

On Monday, Premier Doug Ford announced that Ottawa, along with the rest of southern Ontario, would enter a 28-day lockdown despite the fact the city has seen relatively low levels of COVID-19 compared to other parts of the province. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is standing firm on the decision to put Ottawa into a lockdown on Boxing Day, despite comments from the city's mayor and medical officer of health that stricter measures aren't warranted.

Ford said provincial health officials would "continue to monitor the shutdown measures," and said he'd "love nothing more than to ease them."

"I just have to remind everyone in Ottawa, you're in the orange restrict level. You aren't in yellow, you aren't in green. And just imagine if I said, 'OK, let's open up Ottawa and forget everyone else,'" Ford said on Tuesday.

Earlier on Tuesday, 16 new cases of COVID-19, and no new deaths, were reported by Ottawa Public Health (OPH).

People would 'flock to Ottawa' 

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said Tuesday in an interview with CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning he's hopeful the province will review lockdown measures in the city after 14 days, possibly shortening how long the additional restrictions are in place.

"My hope is that if our numbers continue to be positive, and go in the right direction, then we would get out of the lockdown [early], but that's up to the province," Watson said Tuesday on CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning

Watson said he and the city's medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches were "blindsided" by the premier's announcement on Monday that Ottawa would join the rest of the province in a 28-day lockdown starting on Boxing Day.

Ford addressed Watson's comments calling for a shorter lockdown and said, "I don't want to play politics. I'm here to save lives."

"I respect Mayor Watson, but we just, we just can't take any unnecessary risk right now. And no matter if it's two weeks, or 28 days, or whatever it is, folks, it's not the end of the world. We have to protect the people of Ottawa."

Ontario Premier Doug Ford defended his government's decision on Tuesday to put Ottawa in a 28-day lockdown along with the rest of southern Ontario. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Earlier on Tuesday, CBC asked the province to clarify whether Ottawa's lockdown could be shortened.

In a statement it said, "The impacts of these time-limited measures will be evaluated throughout the 14 days in Northern Ontario and 28 days in Southern Ontario to determine if it is safe to lift any restrictions, or if they need to be extended."

MacLeod says lockdown can be reviewed

Shortly after Mayor Watson spoke to CBC Tuesday morning, Nepean MPP Lisa MacLeod tweeted that officials would "reassess the lockdown in two weeks for communities like Ottawa." 

Ottawa's number of new daily cases of COVID-19 have been significantly lower than in other regions of the province. Tuesday's update from Ottawa Public Health (OPH) indicated there are no COVID-19 patients in intensive care in the city. 

All of Ontario is set to move into a lockdown on Dec. 26, with most non-essential businesses closing. 

Lockdowns in northern regions are set to expire on Jan. 9, 2021, but they're expected to last until at least Jan. 23, 2021 in southern parts of Ontario.

"[Ottawa is] in good shape, and unfortunately, that good behaviour is not being recognized," said Watson.

Canada's Minister of Health said Tuesday she couldn't "speak to the data that they're seeing," when asked about Ontario's province-wide lockdown.

"I'm sure they are monitoring closely to determine capacity at hospitals, and capacity to move people from hospital to hospital should that need arise. So I would imagine there's a number of data points that they're observing in their decision making," said Health Minister Patty Hajdu. 

Watson says no evidence Quebecers bring virus to Ottawa

The premier also reiterated comments he made on Monday that without an Ottawa lockdown, people from neighbouring Quebec would "flock to Ottawa", and possibly bring cases of COVID-19 with them.

Watson had earlier pushed back on those claims, and said there's no evidence that has happened during the pandemic.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said there is no evidence that residents in Gatineau and other parts of Quebec are responsible for transmitting large numbers of COVID-19 cases in Ottawa. (Michel Aspirot/CBC)

"The problem is, I don't know where that information is coming from," said Watson on Tuesday.

"Every day there are thousands of people that go back and forth because of work, and other reasons, across the border ... I'm sure many [Quebecers] have been coming across the border, and we've not seen an increase in our numbers."

The Quebec government announced last week that its provincewide lockdown that starts Christmas Day will last until at least Jan. 11.

with files from CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning

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