Ontario Premier Doug Ford outlined his government’s strict new lockdown regime on Thursday afternoon, citing an “alarming surge” of recent COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
Ford appeared alongside the Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott, the Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams and Co-Chair of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table Dr. Adalsteinn Brown.
“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,” said Ford.
The new rules include a ban on indoor events and reduces the limit of outdoor gatherings to five people only “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.”
Beginning on Saturday, April 3 the lockdown will go into effect for at least four weeks.
In-person shopping is also restricted to a 50% capacity for supermarkets and other essential stores like pharmacies and 25% maximum capacity for all other retailers including big box outlets. Meanwhile, personal care services like salons have been prohibited altogether.
Ford also announced that indoor dining would be banned until further notice as well as outdoor dining. Restaurants are being ordered to only operate by way of take-out, drive-through or delivery.
Other new measures include the shutting down of indoor and outdoor sport activities and a 15% capacity on funerals, weddings and religious services.
“Implementing a provincewide emergency brake was not an easy decision to make and is not one we take lightly. As we continue to vaccinate more Ontarians, the end is in sight, but right now these necessary measures will help to stop the spread of variants in our communities, protect capacity in our health care system, and save lives,” said Minister Elliott.
Ford also announced a pause of Ontario’s back to school framework, however, schools will remain open for in-person learning following Easter celebrations.
“During the emergency shutdown, schools will remain open for in-person learning with strict safety measures in place. The spring break will continue as planned for the week of April 12. In order to support working families, child care will remain open during the shutdown. Child care settings will continue to adhere to stringent health and safety measures so that they remain safe places for children and staff,” wrote a government press release.