QUEEN’S PARK – Further restrictions will go into effect at midnight tonight, limiting gatherings, closing construction, and shutting down outdoor recreation spaces. All measures are in response to escalating COVID-19 cases in Ontario.
“We are losing the battle,” said Premier Doug Ford Friday afternoon. “We are down, but we’re not out.”
Ford detailed measures already taken including pulling the “Emergency Brake” two weeks ago, and issuing a stay-at-home order last week.
“We have more to do,” Ford added. “The reality is, there are few options left.”
He said the province has already implemented the strictest measures in North Amercia.
“It comes down to three things: limiting mobility; enforcing rules; and putting vaccines in arms,” Ford said adding it is up to him to make difficult decisions.
Effective at 12:01 a.m. April 17th, the provincial stay-at-home order is extended by two weeks, making the order six weeks in length.
Outdoor gatherings are to strictly be people in your own household. A single person living alone can join one other household still.
Non-essential construction projects in Ontario are being shut down.
Golf courses are closed.
Outdoor recreation spaces like playgrounds, soccer fields, and basketball courts are closed, following similar restrictions that were put into place a year ago when the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Added for the first time is a limit on inter-provincial travel. Checkpoints will be added at major crossing points on the Ontario-Quebec and Ontario-Manitoba borders. Travel is limited to essential workers, transportation of goods, and respecting Indigenous treaty rights.
“We are going to lock down our borders for the first time in recent memory,” Ford said.
Increased enforcement is being added with police and bylaw officers gaining new emergency powers.
“We need to step up enforcement,” Ford said.
Police will be allowed to stop and ask where you are going, and where you live. Failure to provide information can result in a ticket with a $750 fine.
“Understand the restrictions will be strongly enforced because they must be,” Ford explained. “We need more time to continue vaccinations to priority populations.”
The Premier said that 20 per cent of the province has 80 per cent of the COVID-19 cases with the variant strains increasing Intensive Care Unit rates.
In a move to increase vaccinations in “hot spots”, 25 per cent of new vaccination doses received will go into hot spots, and the province is pushing the federal government to procure more immediate supplies of COVID-19 vaccine.
Health Minister and Deputy Premier Christine Elliott said that increases in cases are because people are not following physical distancing and gathering orders that were already in place.
She said that hospitalizations have increased by 30 per cent in the past week.
“Unless further actions are taken, case levels will continue to rise,” she said.
Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, said that workplace inspections will increase, with targeted enforcement occurring in businesses to ensure people who can work remotely are working remotely.
“To every employer out there, you know the rules,” McNaughton said. “We have a zero tolerance approach and in every type of workplace, employers and employees must follow these rules.”
What is still allowed or open?
Curb side pick-up is still allowed at non-essential retail, as is take-out and delivery at restaurants. Grocery stores and pharmacies are still open with capacity limits. Big box stores remain at 25 per cent occupancy and are limited only to grocery, cleaning, pharmacy, and personal care supplies.
You can still exercise or go for walks, just only with people in your household.
The stay-at-home order will remain in effect until May 19th unless further extended by the provincial government.
Beginning April 19th, weddings, funerals, and other religious services are limited to 10 people indoors or outdoors. No social gatherings are allowed relating to those services except if people are part of the same household. Drive-in services are allowed.