On April 1, the province announced that it’s imposing an Ontario-wide “emergency brake” as a result of a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations that will affect Halton.
The province-wide shutdown will go into effect on Saturday, April 3, 2021, at 12:01 a.m. and will remain in place for at least four weeks.
“We are facing a serious situation and drastic measures are required to contain the rapid spread of the virus, especially the new variants of concern,” said Premier Doug Ford in a statement.
“I know pulling the emergency brake will be difficult on many people across the province, but we must try and prevent more people from getting infected and overwhelming our hospitals. Our vaccine rollout is steadily increasing, and I encourage everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated. That is our best protection against this deadly virus.”
The Ontario government says that from March 26 to 28, provincial case rates have increased by 7.7 per cent to 101.1 cases per 100,000 people. Current COVID-19 related ICU admissions are already over the peak of wave two and hospitals in regional hotspots will need to further ramp down scheduled surgeries.
COVID-19 related ICU admissions are projected to exceed 650 beds in a few weeks.
The province says the increase in cases is being driven by COVID-19 variants, adding that they appear to be leading to more severe illness in younger people.
Under the new shutdown, patios–which opened less than two weeks ago–will be forced to close in parts of the province.
New measures include, but are not limited to:
- Prohibiting indoor organized public events and social gatherings and limiting the capacity for outdoor organized public events or social gatherings to a 5-person maximum, except for gatherings with members of the same household (the people you live with) or gatherings of members of one household and one other person from another household who lives alone.
- Restricting in-person shopping in all retail settings, including a 50 per cent capacity limit for supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, indoor farmers’ markets, other stores that primarily sell food and pharmacies, and 25 per cent for all other retail including big box stores, along with other public health and workplace safety measures;
- Prohibiting personal care services;
- 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;
- Prohibiting the use of facilities for indoor or outdoor sports and recreational fitness (e.g., gyms) with very limited exceptions;
- Requiring day camps to close;
- Limiting capacity at weddings, funerals, and religious services, rites or ceremonies to 15 per cent occupancy per room indoors, and to the number of individuals that can maintain two metres of physical distance outdoors. This does not include social gatherings associated with these services such as receptions, which are not permitted indoors and are limited to five people outdoors.
Ontarians are asked to limit trips outside the home and only leave to obtain food or medication or attend medical appointments or support vulnerable community members. Residents are still permitted to exercise outdoors with members of their household.
The province says there are no plans to close schools at this time. The spring break will continue as planned for the week of April 12. Child care will remain open during the shutdown.
The province says the new Ontario Tourism and Hospitality Small Business Support Grant will provide an estimated $100 million in one-time payments of $10,000 to $20,000 to eligible small businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector.
Cover photo courtesy of The Canadian Press