Thunder Bay

Regional COVID-19 response a possibility: Rickford

The MPP for Kenora-Rainy River said Monday it's possible the province may switch to a regional approach to its COVID-19 response.

MPP says there is currently 'no evidence to support' implementing different restrictions in different areas

Greg Rickford, the MPP for Kenora-Rainy River, said Monday the province may switch to a regional approach to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Supplied by the Office of the Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines)

The MPP for Kenora-Rainy River said Monday it's possible the province may switch to a regional approach to its COVID-19 response.

However, there's "no evidence" to support such a move yet, Greg Rickford said.

"We will when we can," Rickford said when asked about a regional response during a virtual media availability on Monday. "When we get the signals out here in northwestern Ontario that, like some other regions, we're moving in the right direction, I'm very hopeful that and confident that we'll start to look at a regional approach."

Rickford, however, said variants remain a serious concern, and if case numbers remain high, or begin to increase, more restrictions may be put in place.

"I think ... that the next scenario would be a far more aggressive shutdown, that would primarily focus on manufacturing and essential construction activities," he said. "And we've tried to preserve and protect that. We've taken a far more surgical approach in our vaccines, even though our vaccine supply has been unreliable and, in my respectful view disappointing, in terms of ... what we were told we were expecting."

Rickford said the province is currently focusing on vaccinating as many people as possible; the age of eligibility for the AstraZeneca vaccine, for example, will be lowered to 40 as of Tuesday.

Rickford said vaccine supply remains a "key and critical issue," noting it falls within the purview of the federal government.

Rickford's media availability came just days after Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a province-wide stay-at-home order was being extended until May 20. That announcement also carried with it more restrictions, including further limits on gathering sizes, retail store capacity, and the closure of Ontario's borders to non-essential travel.

Ford also initially announced police would have the power to randomly stop pedestrians and vehicles, and ask people why they weren't at home.

However, that measure was walked back the next day.

Rickford said he isn't concerned about a confidence vote at Queen's Park, nor are there any plans to hold an early election.

"We do have budget matters that are before the legislature right now that are always matters of confidence," he said. "But we do have a majority."

Rickford said triggering an election early "would be very irresponsible."

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