Ontario is moving into a 28-day province-wide shutdown as COVID-19 infections and ICU admissions rise.
Premier Doug Ford announced the stricter measures at a news conference Thursday from Queen’s Park, and said the measures begin on Saturday, April 3.
“This decision was not made lightly,” he said. “I know the toll these restrictions continue to take on people’s mental health and well-being.”
Until now, the province was divided by health region with each zone assigned a colour and corresponding set of rules based on COVID-19 risk.
Toronto and Peel have been in lockdown since November 2020, and now the whole province will have similar restrictions.
Across Ontario indoor and patio dining at restaurants must cease, fitness centres and gyms must close, personal care businesses must close, day camps must send children home, and ski hills and golf courses must shut down.
The outdoor gathering limit is also lowered to five people from 10 people. Indoor gatherings with anyone outside one’s household are strictly forbidden.
Retail stores will still be allowed to open at a maximum of 25% usual capacity, and grocery stores will be limited to 50% of usual capacity.
Schools will remain open, and religious ceremonies can continue at 15% of usual capacity. Wedding and funeral ceremonies can also proceed with restrictions, but receptions are forbidden.
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Ontario used its “emergency brake” provisions to quickly clamp down as the latest epidemiological modelling released Thursday predicts the province could have seen 6,000 new COVID-19 cases per day if it didn’t act.
The province’s COVID-19 ICU admissions climbed to a record high of 421 on Wednesday, and are predicted to reach 650 in a few short weeks, according to the province’s projections.
Public health experts say the current third wave of infection is driven by variants of concern and threatens hospitals’ ability to care for all patients.
The COVID-19 modelling called for Stay-at-Home orders to control the surge of infections, however these measures fall short of that.
“We are not going to be producing a stay at home order because we saw last time that it had tremendous ill effect on both children and adults,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said. “Especially with warmer weather coming we want people to go outside and enjoy the outdoors, provided they follow safety precautions.”
Ford said earlier this week that rising COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations concerned him, and that he wouldn’t hesitate to lock things down again.
“Now what we’re seeing is younger people ending up in ICU and passing away, which is terrible. We need to do this,” he said Thursday.
Toronto’s Dr. Eileen de Villa called for province-wide restrictions on Wednesday, saying the seriousness of the problem extends beyond the city’s borders.
“The seriousness of the circumstances requires actions that are commensurate,” she said.
Ontario reported 2,557 new COVID-19 infections Thursday. There are a total of 352,460 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ontario reported to date.