The uncertainty of vaccine delivery and new variants

By MPP Toby Barrett

Haldimand-Norfolk returned to the Orange-Restrict on Tuesday, February 16 as Ontario faces the uncertainty of vaccine delivery and the arrival of new COVID-19 variants.

The move was based on a general improvement in trends of key indicators, including lower transmission of the virus, improving hospital capacity and available public health capacity to conduct rapid case and contact management.

The measures for Haldimand-Norfolk’s move to Orange-Restrict are outlined in O. Reg. 364/20. Check with your local public health unit and municipality for additional advice, recommendations or instructions.

Businesses or organizations must operate in compliance with regulatory requirements and the advice, recommendations and instructions of public health officials, including any advice, recommendations or instructions on physical distancing, cleaning or disinfecting. If you have questions about what will be open or impacts to your business or employment, call the Stop the Spread Business Information Line at 1-888-444-3659. In addition to provincial restrictions, local health units can implement restrictions above or beyond those of the province. 

Recognizing the risk posed by new variants of COVID, Ontario is introducing an “emergency brake” to allow the Chief Medical Officer of Health, in consultation with the local medical officer of health, to immediately advise moving a region into Grey-Lockdown. Local medical officers of health also have the ability to issue Section 22 orders under the Health Protection and Promotion Act to target specific transmission risks in the community.

Ontario has implemented a six-point plan to deal with the new variants of concern, which includes mandatory on-arrival testing of international travelers, enhanced screening and sequencing, maintaining public health measures to keep people safe, strengthening case and contact management to track the spread of new cases, enhanced protections for vulnerable populations, and leveraging the latest data to inform public health decisions.

The government is working closely with public health units and hospitals who are playing a critical role in the vaccine rollout. More information will be made available to the public about when and where they can receive a vaccine when their turn comes. To stay informed about Ontario’s vaccine plan please visit

The federal government states that the Pfizer reductions are a result of a temporary delay and Pfizer indicates that Canada will receive its full allotment of doses before March 31, 2021. We remain committed to vaccinating our most vulnerable and administering second doses as quickly as we receive vaccines from the federal government.

The decision to postpone March Break was made on the best advice of Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and public health officials and following consultations with many local medical officers of health. Keeping kids in class during March Break is likely to limit opportunities for congregation – especially amid the concern of new variants. This is about protecting the progress we’ve made in lowering community cases and making sure kids can remain learning in person. Hopefully, the numbers are down by the time the school break arrives in April.

Our government has been clear this is not a re-opening or a ‘return to normal’ and it is essential Ontarians continue following public health and workplace safety measures including staying at home as much as possible and not engaging in any social gatherings with people outside of their household.

Toby Barrett is MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk.