TORONTO, Ont. - Less than a week after the provincial government instituted new COVID-19 restrictions and enhanced enforcement measures, Premier Doug Ford apologized and said ‘we made a mistake.’
“Last Friday in response to extremely troubling modeling, we moved fast to put in measures to reduce mobility. But we moved too fast,” Ford said during a virtual media conference.
“I know some of those measures, especially around enforcement, went too far. Simply put, we got it wrong. We made a mistake. These decisions have left a lot of people very concerned. In fact, they left a lot of people angry and upset. I know we got it wrong, I know we made a mistake, and for that I am sorry and I sincerely apologize.”
The new restrictions were announced last Friday in response to COVID-19 modeling that showed the province could be facing as many as 15,000 new daily COVID-19 cases by the end of May.
The stay-at-home order was extended by two weeks and outdoor gatherings were limited to only among members of the same household. Outdoor amenities were also shut down, including playgrounds and police and bylaw officers were granted temporary authority to stop people and request an address and reasons for being out of the home.
The restrictions on playgrounds and enforcement drew widespread criticism and were rolled back over the weekend.
“I know many people continue to be unhappy right now and I understand and accept the responsibility for that,” Ford said. “When it comes to protecting lives and hospitals and our people, we can’t waiver. But at this stage of the pandemic, going through this terrible third wave, I assure you there are no easy choices left.”
Ford was speaking virtually from his home in self-isolation after being exposed to a staff member who tested positive for COVID-19.
“I assure you, it is not lost on me that unlike many people I am able to isolate and continue working,” he said. “For too many people right now, that is not the case. During these unprecedented times, regardless of where you work or what you do, if you are forced to going to isolation or quarantine, your job should be safe.”
Ford added that people should not have to lose income or wait for money to arrive.
The NDP has long called for paid sick days for people forced to self-isolate due to COVID-19 and not risk workplace exposure for those who have no choice other than to work.
Ford often touted the federal government’s Recovery Sickness Benefit as providing resources to people who are forced to miss work, though critics said it does not go far enough.
“Unfortunately, Monday’s federal budget didn’t include the important improvements to the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit that we needed to see,” he said. “That is why we are now working on our own solution.”
No details were provided on Friday on what that solution is or when it will be implemented.
NDP leader Andrea Horwath said in a statement following Ford's apology that he is still not providing any concrete solutions to save Ontarians ravaged by the third wave.
"I join millions of Ontarians to demand Ford act today. Give people paid sick days today. Close all non-essential businesses today. Send vaccines to hotspots today," she said.
"Working people and their entire families are lying in the ICU, unable to breathe on their own. Every day, people go to work with COVID symptoms because they can’t afford to take a sick day. Vulnerable people and our frontline heroes cannot get a vaccine.Every day he delays action, more lives will be lost, and more families and businesses will be devastated.”