It’s been just under two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, and despite the majority of Ontarians following the rules and following our public health safety measures, restrictions and lockdowns continue.

Ontario’s currently in Step Two of its Roadmap to Reopen, which is set to stay in effect until January 26 at the earliest, and it could be extended at any time by provincial leadership.

“It’s frustrating,” says Kenora MP Eric Melillo. “We need to ensure Canadians have the tools they need to live with this, rather than the widespread shutdowns that we’re seeing.”

Melillo says the ongoing shortage of rapid antigen COVID-19 tests and personal protective equipment in the nation is only compounding the issue, especially after many provinces limited PCR testing availability in recent weeks due to diagnostic testing backlogs.

“The shutdowns are really a result of the federal government’s failure to secure rapid tests or to support domestic production. The government has been slow.”

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised that Ottawa would be sending 140 million rapid test kits to provinces – enough for every Canadian to use once per week. Many provinces, including Ontario, say they’re still awaiting their shipments.

“Worst of all, with all of the spending we’ve seen to respond to COVID, none of it has led to increased health transfers to the provinces,” adds Melillo, who also serves as the Conservatives’ Shadow Minister for FedNor.

“Our party wants to see an approach that focuses on the domestic production of essential items so Canadians have the tools they need to get through this, while the government better supports the healthcare system to handle this and subsequent waves.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has said that those who remain unvaccinated should be allowed to take rapid test kits, opposed to losing their job or being placed on indefinite leave, under the federal government’s mandatory vaccination policies.

As of January 13, Ontario reported an all-time high of 3,630 hospitalized with COVID-19, up 182 from January 12’s numbers, with about 500 people in intensive care units, down 5 from the prior day. Overall, the province saw 9,909 new cases of the virus reported.

The province’s recent restrictions include closing schools until January 17, reducing social gathering limits to five people indoors and 10 outdoors, closing down restaurants and gyms and limiting capacities at a variety of locations.