The Government of Ontario has declared a second state of emergency and has issued a stay at home order, effective Thursday.
On Tuesday, Premier Doug Ford announced the state of emergency will last for at least 28 days.
The stay at home order will be effective Thursday, January 14 at 12:01 am. It means everyone must stay home and only go out for essential trips, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing healthcare services, for exercise or for essential work.
Enhanced enforcement will be implemented with the stay at home order and for those not following the new and existing measures. Penalties can include up to a year in jail. Those who decide not to abide by orders will be subject to set fines and/or prosecution under both the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act (ROA) and EMCPA.
In addition to limiting outings to essential trips, all businesses must ensure that any employee who can work from home, does work from home.
Outdoor organized public gatherings and social gatherings are further restricted to a limit of five people with limited exceptions. According to the province, this is consistent with the rules during the lockdown during the first wave of COVID-19 in Spring 2020 and will allow individuals and families to enjoy time outdoors safely.
Individuals are required to wear a mask or face covering in the indoor areas of businesses or organizations that are open.
In addition, all non-essential retail stores, including hardware stores, alcohol retailers, and those offering curbside pickup or delivery, must open no earlier than 7 am and close no later than 8 pm. However, the restricted hours of operation do not apply to stores that primarily sell food, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores, and restaurants for takeout or delivery.
Non-essential construction is further restricted, including below-grade construction, exempting survey.
Schools in Windsor-Essex, Peel, Toronto, York, and Hamilton will remain closed until February 10.
And on January 20, the chief medical officer of health will face recommendations for the remaining regions.
“We have some really dark days ahead, and some turbulent waters, but we will get through it. More than ever, I need you to do your part by staying home and saving lives,” Ford said.
“The latest modelling data shows that Ontario is in a crisis and, with the current trends, our hospital ICUs will be overwhelmed in a few short weeks with unthinkable consequences. That’s why we are taking urgent and decisive action, which includes declaring a provincial emergency and imposing a stay at home order.”
Ford said the healthcare system is on the “brink of collapse” due to the high COVID-19 cases and death rates.
“We’re at levels we’ve never seen before. Our province is in crisis and the facts are clear cases, and deaths are at the highest since the start of the pandemic.”
Ford also commented on the “very dangerous” COVID-19 UK strain variant of which eight more cases were detected in the province.
Prior to the briefing, health officials revealed COVID-19 modelling data projections, which showed Ontario is set to reach 10,000 daily COVID-19 cases at the current growth rate which is between 3% to 5%.
When looking at ICU bed occupancy it would be 500 beds in mid-January with no percentage growth, but at 3% it’s over 1,000, and at 5% it’s almost at 2,000.
COVID-19 ICU occupancy is now over 400 beds. This has resulted in surgeries being cancelled and the access to care deficit will continue to increase “with real consequences for health.”
And when it comes to looking at the most vulnerable populations like long-term care, since January 1, 198 long-term care residents and two long-term care staff have died of COVID-19. The forecast suggests more deaths in wave 2 in long-term care than in wave 1.
Ontario has been in a province-wide lockdown since December 26 which has closed non-essential businesses, restaurants, and bars, with stricter limits on gatherings only permitting residents to see the people they live with.
To date, Ontario has seen 222,023 COVID-19 cases and 5,053 deaths.