Premier Doug Ford has confirmed that a province-wide lockdown will be enforced at 12:01 am on Saturday, December 26 in an

In a news conference at Queen’s Park, Ford announced new public-health measures aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 in the province.

The lockdown will remain in place until at least January 23, 2021, in the 27 public health units that comprise southern Ontario. However, in the seven public health units in northern Ontario where daily case numbers have been significantly lower, the lockdown is set to expire on January 9.

"The number of daily cases continue to rise putting our hospitals and long-term care homes at risk," said Premier Ford. "We need to stop the spread of this deadly virus. That's why, on the advice of Dr. Williams and other health experts, we are taking the difficult but necessary decision to shutdown the province and ask people to stay home. Nothing is more important right now than the health and safety of all Ontarians."

The announcement comes following the premier’s emergency meeting with CEOs of Ontario hospitals and amid growing calls from hospital officials for the implementation of stricter measures to curb the spread of the pandemic.

Ford said Monday that COVID-19 is “accelerating at an alarming rate.” He also said he is “extremely alarmed” at reports of the new, more infectious strain of COVID-19 seen in the United Kingdom.

READ: Will a COVID-19 Vaccine Cause Home-Buyer’s Remorse for Those Who Fled the City?

Under the lockdown, schools in southern Ontario will turn to remote learning when classes resume in the new year. Elementary schools will be closed for in-class learning until at least January 11, while secondary schools will remain closed until January 25.

All public and private schools -- both elementary and secondary -- in Northern Ontario would be permitted to resume in-person learning on January 11.

However, child care centres will remain open for the duration of the province-wide shutdown.

Lockdown measures include, but are not limited to:

  • Restricting indoor organized public events and social gatherings, except with members of the same household (the people you live with). Individuals who live alone may consider having exclusive close contact with one other household.
  • Prohibiting in-person shopping in most retail settings - curbside pickup and delivery can continue. Discount and big-box retailers selling groceries will be limited to 25% capacity for in-store shopping. Supermarkets, grocery stores and similar stores that primarily sell food, as well as pharmacies, will continue to operate at 50% capacity for in-store shopping.
  • Restricting indoor access to shopping malls - patrons may only go to a designated indoor pickup area (by appointment only), essential retail stores that are permitted to be open (e.g. pharmacy, grocery store), or, subject to physical distancing and face-covering requirements, to the food court for takeout purchases. Shopping malls may also establish outdoor designated pickup areas.
  • Prohibiting indoor and outdoor dining. Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments will be permitted to operate by take out, drive-through, and delivery only.
  • "We continue to see the number of cases in the province grow and the trends in public health indicators worsen. Additional measures are needed provincewide in order to interrupt this concerning growth," said Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health. "We must work together to enable everyone to follow these new and time-limited restrictions and protect our health system and our communities."

    The strict measures follow the province's latest modelling that forecasts, under any scenario, Ontario could see up to 300 patients with cases of COVID-19 in intensive care units by the end of December.

    In a worst-case scenario, that number could increase to more than 1,500 by mid-January -- about 75% of Ontario's entire intensive care capacity.

    This comes as provincial health officials announced an increase of 2,123 cases, 17 more deaths, and 1,654 resolved cases on Monday.

    Ontario News