On April 7, the province announced that it’s implementing another stay-at-home order and is opening up vaccination to anyone 18 years of age and older in hotspot neighbourhoods in such hard-hit municipalities as Mississauga, Brampton, Caledon and Toronto.
“The Covid-19 situation is at a critical stage and we must act quickly and decisively to stay ahead of these deadly new variants,” said Premier Doug Ford in a statement.
“By imposing these strict new measures we will keep people safe while allowing our vaccination program to reach more people, starting with our high-risk population and identified hot spots. Although this is difficult, I urge everyone to follow these public health measures and together we will defeat this deadly virus.”
The stay-at-home order will go into effect on April 8, 2021, at 12:01 a.m. The province says the order requires everyone to remain at home except for essential purposes, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services (including getting vaccinated), getting exercise or going to work (if you cannot work remotely).
While residents are encouraged to stay in their regions, travel between regions will not be legally restricted.
The province says case rates, hospitalizations, and ICU occupancy are increasing rapidly, threatening to overwhelm the health care system. The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the province has increased by 28.2 per cent between March 28 and April 5, 2021. The province says that between March 28 and April 5, 2021, the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care climbed by 25 per cent.
The province says that over the past week, Ontario’s positivity rate hit 5.1 per cent, well above the high-alert threshold of 2.5 per cent. As of April 6, 2021, there has been a total of 2,483 cases with one of the three variants of concern. The per cent of cases in the last week that tested positive for a mutation or VOC was 63.1 per cent.
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.
The province says mobile teams are being organized to administer vaccines in high-risk congregate settings, residential buildings, faith-based locations, and locations occupied by large employers in hot spot neighbourhoods to individuals aged 18 or over.
Pop-up clinics will also be set up in highly impacted neighbourhoods, including at faith-based locations and community centres in those hot spots. The province says it will provide additional resources to support these mobile and pop-up clinics in the hardest-hit neighbourhoods.
The government also says it will also extend booking for COVID-19 vaccination appointments to more age groups through its provincial booking system, for public health regions with highly impacted neighbourhoods, on Friday, April 9, 2021. Booking eligibility will be extended to include individuals aged 50 and over for COVID-19 vaccination appointments at mass immunization clinics in high-risk areas as identified by postal code, using the provincial booking system.
Impact on retail
Restrictions on retail include:
• Limiting the majority of non-essential retailers to only operate for curbside pick-up and delivery between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 p.m., 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 groceries, household cleaning supplies, pharmacy items (pharmaceutical, health care and personal care items, and pet care supplies) only;
• Permitting the following stores to operate for in-person retail by appointment only and subject to a 25 per cent capacity limit and restricting allowable hours of operation to 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.:
o Safety supply stores;
o Businesses that primarily sell, rent or repair assistive devices, aids or supplies, mobility devices, aids or supplies or medical devices, aids or supplies;
o Rental and leasing services including automobile, commercial and light industrial machinery and equipment rental;
o Optical stores that sell prescription eyewear to the public;
o Businesses that sell motor vehicles, boats and other watercraft;
o Vehicle and equipment repair and essential maintenance and vehicle and equipment rental services; and
o 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 per cent capacity limit and a restriction on hours of operation.
Impact on education
Schools in Toronto and Peel will be closed until at least April 19. Beginning during the April break, education workers who provide direct daily support to students with special education needs across the province, and all education workers in high-risk neighbourhoods in Toronto and Peel will be eligible for vaccination. As vaccine supply allows, eligibility will expand to high-risk neighbourhoods in other hot spot regions, including York, Ottawa, Hamilton, Halton and Durham, followed by a rollout across the province as supply allows.
The province says health and safety inspectors and provincial offences officers will increase inspections and enforcement at essential businesses in regional hot zones.
The province says rapid testing continues to be deployed in workplaces for asymptomatic staff in key sectors such as manufacturing, warehousing, supply chain, mining, construction and food processing. Approximately 5.4 million rapid antigen tests have been sent to over 1,150 workplaces, including 100 essential industry sites, under the Provincial Antigen Screening Program.
Cover photo courtesy of The Canadian Press