Due to the surge in COVID case numbers and hospitalizations across the province amid the third wave, the Ford government has announced a month-long stay-at-home order and the province's third state of emergency.
According to the province, the order will come into effect on Thursday, April 8 at 12:01 am and will close all non-essential retail outlets for in-person shopping other than grocery stores and pharmacies.
Big box stores will be allowed to open for the sale of essential goods only, while all other retailers, including malls, will be restricted to curbside pickup only. Once again, evictions will be halted amid the stay-at-home order.
The order is expected to last four weeks, meaning it could end on May 6.
Residents are urged to stay home except to go to work, exercise, shop for essentials, attend medical appointments, or other necessary obligations for its duration.
"I can't stress this enough. Things are extremely, extremely serious right now. And I'm extremely concerned," said Ford during Wednesday's announcement.
"The situation is evolving rapidly, hour by hour. And as things change, as we learn more about these deadly new variants, as we see new problems arise, we need to adapt. We need to move quickly and decisively. And right now, above all else, our plan is to get needles in the arms and protect our hospitals. That's why, today, on the advice of the chief medical officer of health I'm declaring a state of emergency."
According to the province, the following new measures are in place:
- Limiting the majority of non-essential retailers to only operate for curbside pick-up and delivery, via appointment, between the hours of 7 am and 8 pm, with delivery of goods to patrons permitted between 6:00 am and 9:00 pm and other restrictions;
- Restricting access to shopping malls to limited specified purposes, including access for curbside pick-up and delivery, via appointment, with one single designated location inside the shopping mall, and any number of designated locations outside the shopping mall, along with other restrictions;
- Restricting discount and big box stores in-person retail sales to grocery items, pet care supplies, household cleaning supplies, pharmaceutical items, health care items, and personal care items only;
- Permitting the following stores to operate for in-person retail by appointment only and subject to a 25% capacity limit and restricting allowable hours of operation to between 7 am and 8 pm with the delivery of goods to patrons permitted between 6 am and 9 pm:
- Safety supply stores;
- Businesses that primarily sell, rent or repair assistive devices, aids or supplies, mobility devices, aids or supplies or medical devices, aids or supplies;
- Rental and leasing services including automobile, commercial and light industrial machinery and equipment rental;
- Optical stores that sell prescription eyewear to the public;
- Businesses that sell motor vehicles, boats and other watercraft;
- Vehicle and equipment repair and essential maintenance and vehicle and equipment rental services; and
- Retail stores operated by a telecommunications provider or service, which may only permit members of the public to enter the premises to purchase a cellphone or for repairs or technical support.
- Permitting outdoor garden centres and plant nurseries, and indoor greenhouses that engage in sales to the public, to operate with a 25% capacity limit and a restriction on hours of operation to between 7 am and 8 pm.
Keeping schools and child care open is critical to the mental health and well-being of Ontario children and youth. Schools and child care will remain open for in-person care and learning in public health regions where it is permitted, with strict safety measures in place.
In addition, beginning next week, education workers who provide direct support to students with special education needs across the province, and all education workers in select hot spot areas, will be eligible to register for vaccination.
Vaccinations will commence during the April break starting with priority neighbourhoods in Toronto and Peel, then rolling out to priority neighbourhoods in other hot spot regions, including York, Ottawa, Hamilton, Halton, and Durham. This will be followed by a rollout across the province as supply allows.
As part of Phase Two of its COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan, people living in regions with the highest rates of transmission will be prioritized to receive a vaccine, starting with the most at-risk in the Peel and Toronto public health regions. This initiative will be expanded to additional "hot spot" regions based on established patterns of transmission, severe illness, and mortality.
Wednesday's announcement comes less than a week after the province-wide shutdown began on Saturday, April 3 after the Ford government pulled its 'emergency break.'
The shutdown closed restaurants, gyms, and many other businesses in all regions of Ontario for four weeks.
This comes as Ontario reported 3,215 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, the highest daily case count logged in the province since January 17, when 3,422 new cases were confirmed.