Residents of a Toronto-Ontario care facility sought outdoor permits on Tuesday, saying that restrictions on pandemic measures that had been trapped indoors for over a year make no sense given that almost all are vaccinated. It was.
Some compared their situation to cell captivity and urged state governments to act on what they called a serious violation of basic human rights.
Chuck Ferkranus, a resident of a house in Newmarket, Ontario, said no one in the building had a COVID-19, but the resident was stuck in his room. Ferkranus, who demanded that authoritative people live for a week like him, said the inhabitants were treated worse than criminals.
“We didn’t do anything wrong. We are not guilty of any crime,” he said. “If vaccination does not end the rule, if the person with the COVID does not end the restriction, what does it take to do this?”
Many of the estimated 150,000 nursing home residents have been trapped in rooms and floors for as long as 15 months, separated from most relatives and the outdoors. Activists blame operators for extreme staff shortages that prioritize corporate needs over welfare of the population.
Proponents also say that restrictions don’t make sense. Scientific evidence shows that COVID-19 is much less likely to spread outdoors than indoors.
They also point to evidence that extreme isolation is physically and mentally damaging.
“We can’t continue this way. People are really suffering,” said Natalie Mela, Secretary-General of the Ontario Health Union. “We are furious and grieving.”
Another resident of Newmarket, Alfred Borg, said he wasn’t allowed to go out for more than a year, or even took a shower for five or six months. Instead, he said, residents can only use the indoor sponge bath if even the law guarantees bathing or showering twice a week.
“We just sit in our room all day,” Borg said. “Why are we treated so differently from others? Living alone is not enough. We need a better quality of life.”
Dr. Amit Arya, a palliative care physician for long-term care, said quality of life is important and infection control cannot afford to beat everything. Given that the social isolation and loneliness of “serious harm” can cause older people, he said the restrictions cannot be justified.
Lawyer Jane Medas called the restriction a violation of human rights. Although pandemic measures are loose in other parts of society, older people continue to suffer, she said.
“All these detentions have been illegal,” Medas said.
She said Prime Minister Doug Ford and his minister had not responded to Medas’ letter last month calling for a ban on such imprisonment.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Ford expressed some sympathy, but showed no sign that he would address his concerns.
“I fully understand — my mother-in-law is there,” Ford said. “But we have to be very careful.”
Health Minister Christine Elliott confirmed that more than 90% of caregivers were fully vaccinated, but did not mention the issue of confinement.
According to Michelle Morrisau, mothers have been able to attend their husband’s funeral in only the last four hours from a nursing home in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
“She came out for a funeral, and when she returned home, she was put in quarantine (for nine days),” said distraught Moriso. “My mother is very different when she is outside. She is cheerful and vigilant.”
In some cases, activists said the house called police to force the blockade, even if they did not have the authority to do so.
“It’s more than horrifying,” Mehra said.