Premier Doug Ford announced new COVID-19 restrictions Friday after the province’s latest epidemiological modelling suggested sustained high case counts may threaten a return to semi-normal by summer.
The premier said that Ontario would be extending its state of emergency and Stay-at-Home order for another two weeks, for a total of 6 weeks. It’s now set to expire on May 19, 2021.
Starting Monday, April 19, Ontario will have provincial border checkpoints to halt non-essential travel. People will need a valid reason to enter Ontario by road from Manitoba or Quebec such as work, medical care, or transport of goods.
Additionally, beginning Saturday, April 17, outdoor gatherings will be limited to households only. People who live alone will be allowed to gather with only one other household outdoors.
Outdoor recreation amenities, including golf courses, basketball courts, and playgrounds, will be closed.
The province is also shutting down non-essential construction. Projects taking place at malls, office towers, and hotels must cease. Essential construction on homes, hospitals, and long-term care centres can continue.
Capacity limits at essential stores are also being reduced. Grocery stores and other retailers are permitted to be open at only 25% of their usual capacity. That’s down from 50% previously.
Attendance at places of worship will also be capped at 10 people indoors.
Ontario is also temporarily enhancing police powers during the Stay-at-Home order. Police will be allowed to stop individuals who are not at home and ask them their purpose for being out and their home address. Officers can do the same for drivers.
People who fail to answer police questions could be issued a ticket for $750.
Officials stressed that it’s imperative to work from home if possible. Inspectors will be visiting law offices, accounting firms, and other businesses in the coming weeks to ensure those inside or on-site have a valid reason.
“Employers and employees take note: this is your final warning,” Minister of Labour Monte McNaughton said.
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Ford spoke from Queen’s Park hours after the province revealed new data that suggested Ontario could see 7,500 COVID-19 cases per day if it stays the current course.
ICU admissions are projected to pass 1,000 this month, a forecast that Health Minister Christine Elliott called “highly concerning.”
Ontario broke its daily COVID-19 case record on Friday with 4,812 new infections, bringing the province’s tally since the pandemic began to 408,383.