Less than a week after a third provincial shutdown was imposed, further restrictions and a stay-at-home order have been issued.
The stay-at-home order is effective at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, April 8.
Non-essential retail stores will only be open for curbside pickup. For the first time in the pandemic, big box stores will be limited to only selling essential items.
These changes are in addition to the emergency brake measures that took effect April 3 in all 34 health units across the province.
The government faced criticism over the weekend, however, after a video of a packed Yorkdale mall surfaced.
The province has reported more than 3,000 new COVID cases per day since Sunday, with 3,215 new cases today.
Yesterday, Ford hinted that further restrictions were on the way and some would be targeted at York, Peel and Toronto regions, which make up about 60 per cent of the provincial case numbers.
“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 Ford. “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.”
Further restrictions include:
In addition, the province is also strengthening public health and workplace safety measures for non essential retail under the provincewide emergency brake. Measures include, but are not limited to:
• 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 a.m. and 9 p.m., 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.:
-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 per cent capacity limit and a restriction on hours of operation.
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 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.
“While our government took decisive action by implementing the provincewide emergency brake, more needs to be done to protect against the threats to our health system resources and the continued health and safety of individuals and families across the province,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “By further strengthening public health and workplace safety measures, we can work to reduce transmission of the virus while we work to rollout Phase 2 of our vaccine distribution plan, and put more needles in the arms of Ontarians.”
“The rapid and increasing spread of COVID-19 and the variants of concern pose significant threats to our health care system and the well-being of Ontarians, requiring immediate and decisive action,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. “The declaration of a third provincial emergency is necessary to provide the government with the tools needed to help protect the public, reduce the spread of the virus and save lives.”
As part of Phase 2 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.
To support this expanded vaccination effort, 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 neighborhoods, including at faith-based locations and community centres in those hot spots, in collaboration with public health units and community organizations within those communities. The province will provide additional resources to support these mobile and pop-up clinics in the hardest-hit neighbourhoods.
The government 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.
Health and safety inspectors and provincial offences officers will increase inspections and enforcement at essential businesses in regional hot zones to continue protecting essential workers while on the job. There have been 19,500 COVID-related workplace inspections and investigations across the province since the beginning of 2021. During those visits, inspectors have issued over 15,000 orders and over 450 COVID-19 related tickets, and stopped unsafe work related to COVID 19 a total of 24 times.
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. To encourage the use of these tests under the program, additional outreach will occur to employers in regions with highest rates of transmission to increase access to testing, and the process for enrollment in the screening program will be streamlined to allow for quick access to these supports.
“As we continue to see COVID-19 variants of concern drive this third wave of COVID-19, it is evident stronger public health and workplace measures are needed to help interrupt the spread of the virus,” said Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health. “By all of us staying at home, while still taking some time to enjoy the outdoors with the people we live with in our local neighbourhoods and maintaining two metres physical distance from others, we can reduce our mobility, minimize transmission, protect our loved ones and our communities, safeguard health system capacity, and save lives.”
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