With 458 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, 468 on Wednesday and 448 on Thursday, Dr. Lawrence Loh’s fears about Halloween gatherings causing a huge spike are being realized. Data confirmed a “Halloween surge”, Peel’s top doctor informed Brampton Council on Wednesday.

If people didn’t heed his advice then, Diwali which is being celebrated this weekend will likely become another superspreader and keep the case count at alarming levels for the next two weeks. Christmas comes next!!!

So, while politicians are attempting to stare down a lockdown in Ontario, an immediate shutdown might be the most effective prescription for Peel’s malaise.

As a resident of Peel, I pray that this happens sooner than later. It is time we paid attention to our health care system and the brave men and women who work there.

Dr. Loh told a media outlet earlier this week that the region’s health care system is “beyond capacity” and that “our hospitals are transferring patients all over Ontario”. This and the fact that Peel is getting help with contact tracing from other public health units shows that the situation here is already out of control, the doctor noted.

How much worse does it need to get before officials make the call?

With the second wave overwhelming Ontario, our premier has developed a COVID fatigue of sorts. The pressure to keep businesses open seems to have taken precedence over lives and the health care system. Doug Ford needs to prioritise the health of the province over his popularity with business owners. It is time for the premier who said that he would do whatever it takes to win the battle against the coronavirus to step up. Which in this case means an immediate lockdown of Peel.

As Toronto’s top doctor Eileen de Villa rightly said, “It’s logical to believe that if we effectively reduce the spread, that the economy will benefit in the long run.”

Even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged provinces and territories to “do the right thing” and protect public health as coronavirus cases continue to surge across much of Canada.

“I would hope that no leader in our country is easing public health vigilance because they feel pressured not to shut down businesses,” Trudeau said during a briefing with public health officials on Tuesday.

According to media reports Ford became one of the most trusted politicians for his leadership during the crisis, not just in the province and country but globally. Many who did not vote for him were impressed enough to support him in the next election but his handling of the second wave of pandemic might have changed their minds. The targeted approach and tiered framework make sense as long as you do what is required in the hotspots. Leaving tough decisions to the municipalities appears to be pushing the buck to local politicians.

Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health has been persistent in her recommendations for stricter restrictions, despite the pressure from business and perhaps even provincial officials to open up. Kudos to her and Mayor Tory for stepping up when the province clearly faltered.

That is not to say Peel’s case count is reflective of Dr. Loh’s inaction. His task is so much harder given that he has three cities to oversee. With situations in Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon being vastly different, he must have a tough job getting officials to come to a consensus.

While the spotlight has always been on Brampton, Mississauga’s Mayor Bonnie Crombie acknowledged that her city which is averaging 105 new daily cases is also seeing a surge. Small and large gatherings seem to play a significant role.

Crombie told a media outlet that Mississauga now has a test positivity rate of 6.5 per cent due in part to the Thanksgiving long weekend and a large outbreak at a manufacturing plant, She is urging “everyone in the community to step up right here and right now” adding those celebrating Diwali keep it within their immediate family.

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, on the other hand, has pointed the finger at industrial units and downplayed illegal social gatherings despite his city’s reputation for parties during the pandemic. The City of Brampton was inundated with complaints about illegal house and parking lot parties in spring and summer but seemed to be getting a handle on it mid October.

That being said, the average number of people in Brampton households is higher than other cities which is why Brown has been pushing for an COVID-19 isolation centre where people can quarantine without infecting their family members and roommates. According to Dr. Loh the centre (no location mentioned yet) should be up and running next month.

Meanwhile, we have another two weeks to get through while relying on the residents of Peel to follow public health recommendations to avoid infecting themselves and others.

This is a tall order, given our track record and the fact that most of us come from countries where people flout rather than respect rules.

Diwali will be the biggest ‘open book test’!

The optimist in me is hopeful but the realist believes nothing short of a lockdown will bring the pandemic under control in the region.

Officials, provincial or municipal, must do it right away!


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