Today, Premier Doug Ford announced a provincewide stay-at-home order, which will begin at 12:01 a.m. on April 8, 2021 and will last for four weeks.
The move comes following a surge in hospital and ICU admissions, as well as an overall increase in cases, particularly with variants of concern. In the past week, 63.1 per cent of cases in Ontario tested positive for a mutation or VOC.
“I can’t stress this enough, things are extremely, extremely serious right now, and I am extremely concerned,” said Ford. “Right now, above all else, our plan is to get needles into arms and protect our hospitals.”
This is Ontario’s third COVID-19 state of emergency.
“To boil it down as simple as possible, folks please, unless it’s for an essential reason, please stay home,” he added. “We just need to hunker down right now, we need to limit mobility.”
Residents are being asked to stay home except for work that can’t be done remotely, for school, and for essential purposes such as getting food or medication, going to medical appointments including getting vaccinated, supporting vulnerable community members, child care, and getting exercise or walking pets. Close contact should be limited to the people you live with; stay two metres apart from everyone else. If you live alone, you can have close contact with only one other household.
New restrictions include:
- In-person shopping at discount and big box stores is limited to grocery items, pet care supplies, household cleaning supplies, pharmaceutical items, health care items, and personal care items only;
- Most non-essential retailers can offer curbside pick-up and delivery only, via appointment, between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 p.m., with delivery of goods to patrons permitted between 6:00 am and 9:00 pm;
- The following stores can operate for in-person retail by appointment only and subject to a 25 per cent capacity limit and restricting allowable hours of operation to between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. with the delivery of goods to patrons permitted between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.:
- Safety supply stores;
- Businesses that primarily sell, rent or repair assistive devices, aids or supplies, mobility devices, aids or supplies or medical devices, aids or supplies;
- Rental and leasing services including automobile, commercial and light industrial machinery and equipment rental;
- Optical stores that sell prescription eyewear to the public;
- Businesses that sell motor vehicles, boats and other watercraft;
- Vehicle and equipment repair and essential maintenance and vehicle and equipment rental services; and
- Retail stores operated by a telecommunications provider or service, which may only permit members of the public to enter the premises to purchase a cellphone or for repairs or technical support.
- Outdoor garden centres and plant nurseries, and indoor greenhouses that engage in sales to the public, can operate with a 25 per cent capacity limit and a restriction on hours of operation to between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Grocery stores and pharmacies will remain open for in-person shopping with restrictions.
Schools and child care will remain open for in-person care and learning in public health regions where it is permitted, with strict safety measures in place. Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit said in his weekly briefing today that he will not follow the example of other health units in switching schools to online learning.
Residential evictions are suspended for the duration of the stay-at-home order.
People should remain in their local communities and avoid all non-essential travel—even within the province—and stay home when ill even with mild symptoms.
See full details on the stay-at-home order restrictions here.
“With these additional measures, we will limit mobility, limit the spread, keep people safe, and allow more time to deliver vaccines,” said Ford. “And be assured, vaccines remain our best hope to beat this virus.”
All Ontarians 60 and older are now eligible to book a vaccine appointment via the province’s booking system and those over 55 can register online for an AstraZeneca vaccine at some local pharmacies.
Based on the vaccine the province expects to receive, “I’m expecting that we will be able to have 40 per cent of Ontario adults vaccinated by the end of the four week stay-at-home order, and that’s when things start to change dramatically in our favour.
“The decisions we make now, how we handle the next four weeks, what we do until we start achieving mass immunization will be the difference between life and death for thousands of people,” said Ford.
Minister of Health and Deputy Premier Christine Elliott noted that, “This wave is different. COVID-19 variants are transmitted more quickly and easily, putting even more lives at risk… Our hospitals are being hit hard. Intensive care units have more patients now than they ever did in previous waves. With many hospitals at capacity, we are seeing patients being transferred to other hospitals for the care they need, sometimes hundreds of kilometres away.”
She said the additional measures are needed “to address the rate of COVID-19 transmission…and preserve health system capacity,” and added that health experts have said that we can look forward to a more normal summer but “it will take a collective effort from all of us.”
In response to a media question wondering how officials could be surprised by increasing case rates, hospitalizations, and ICU admissions when earlier modelling indicated that variants were dangerous and could transmit very quickly.
Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said that rate of growth has increased quickly over the past week, while ICU admission numbers have increased more quickly than would have been expected based on models. He also noted that a higher number of younger people are being hospitalized due to COVID-19 and with more severe infections than previously.
Williams added that he recommended the stay-at-home order to try to limit the mobility of people. “As we’ve seen over the long weekend, there was still a lot of movement and less than, I would say, full adherence to the care and cautions necessary.”
Premier Ford also addressed criticism regarding paid sick leave, noting that there is sick pay available from the federal government, with details at canada.ca/covid-19.
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