In response to a surge in COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations in Ontario, the provincial government is implementing a provincewide “emergency brake” beginning Saturday, April 3, 2021, at 12:01 a.m. It will remain in place for at least four weeks.
Details were provided today by Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health, and Dr. Adalsteinn (Steini) Brown, Co-Chair of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table.
“We are facing a serious situation and drastic measures are required to contain the rapid spread of the virus, especially the new variants of concern,” said Premier Ford. “I know pulling the emergency brake will be difficult on many people across the province, but we must try and prevent more people from getting infected and overwhelming our hospitals. Our vaccine rollout is steadily increasing, and I encourage everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated. That is our best protection against this deadly virus.”
The decision to take these additional control measures are based on the latest data and modelling. According to a media release from the Ministry of Health, from March 26 to 28, 2021, provincial case rates increased by 7.7 per cent to 101.1 cases per 100,000 people, and COVID-19-related ICU admissions are above the peak of admissions during wave two of the pandemic with that number projected to exceed 650 beds in a few weeks.
The increases are being driven by COVID-19 variants, which are transmitted easily and result in a higher risk of death and hospitalization, including in younger populations.
The provincewide emergency brake puts in place time-limited public health and workplace safety measures including (but not limited to):
- Prohibiting indoor organized public events and social gatherings and limiting the capacity for outdoor organized public events or social gatherings to a five-person maximum, except for gatherings with members of the same household (the people you live with) or gatherings of members of one household and one other person from another household who lives alone.
- Restricting in-person shopping in all retail settings, including a 50 per cent capacity limit for supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, indoor farmers’ markets, other stores that primarily sell food and pharmacies, and 25 per cent for all other retail including big box stores, along with other public health and workplace safety measures.
- Prohibiting personal care services.
- Prohibiting indoor and outdoor dining. Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments will be permitted to operate by take-out, drive-through, and delivery only.
- Prohibiting the use of facilities for indoor or outdoor sports and recreational fitness (e.g., gyms) with very limited exceptions.
- Requiring day camps to close.
- Limiting capacity at weddings, funerals, and religious services, rites or ceremonies to 15 per cent occupancy per room indoors, and to the number of individuals that can maintain two metres of physical distance outdoors. This does not include social gatherings associated with these services such as receptions, which are not permitted indoors and are limited to five people outdoors.
- The full list of emergency brake restrictions is available here.
During the emergency shutdown, schools will remain open for in-person learning with strict safety measures in place. Spring break will continue as planned for the week of April 12.
Child care will also remain open during the shutdown. Child care settings will continue to adhere to stringent health and safety measures.
All Ontarians are asked to limit trips outside the home to necessities such as food, medication, medical appointments, supporting vulnerable community members, or exercising outdoors with members of their household. Employers in all industries should make every effort to allow employees to work from home.
“As we continue to vaccinate more Ontarians, the end is in sight, but right now these necessary measures will help to stop the spread of variants in our communities, protect capacity in our health care system, and save lives,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.
The current COVID-19 Response Framework will be paused when the provincewide emergency brake comes into effect; the province will evaluate the impact of these measures throughout the next four weeks to determine if it is safe to lift any restrictions or if they need to be extended.
“In the last few weeks a significant increase in COVID-19 cases and variants of concern has been observed across Ontario which has put considerable strain on our public health and health care systems,” said Dr. David Williams, chief medical officer of health. “Implementing a provincewide shutdown is needed to bring the third wave of this pandemic under control so that we can save lives, keep our education system open and allow our vaccination program to take hold.”
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