The Ontario government has declared a second provincial emergency during the COVID-19 pandemic as case numbers continue to spike.
Effective Jan. 14 at 12:01 a.m., a stay-at-home order is being issued province-wide, requiring everyone to stay home with exceptions for essential purposes.
This means all businesses must ensure that any employee who can work from home, does work from home.
Premier Doug Ford said while making the announcement, “The system is on the brink of collapse.”
“The dangerous U.K. variant of COVID is being found across the province … if we don’t move fast, our hospital ICUs could be overwhelmed by the beginning of February,” added Ford. He says health officials tell him it’s not a matter of if the new U.K. strain will take hold, but when and how wide.
Outdoor gatherings are now limited to five people and wearing a face mask or covering is now recommended outdoors when you can’t physically distance. Going outside for exercise is still permitted.
Individuals who live alone are still allowed to join with another household to “help reduce the negative impacts of social isolation.”
There was no change to the number of people allowed at weddings, funerals and religious services, remaining at 10 outdoors and 10 indoors, however they must be compliant with mask rules.
Schools in hotspot regions not returning for in-person learning until Feb. 10
All schools in the hotspot regions of Toronto, York, Hamilton, Peel and Windsor-Essex will also not return for in-person learning until Feb. 10. There will also be further measures taken at schools which include masking required for Grades 1 to 3 and requirements to wear masks outdoors, enhanced screening and an increase in testing.
An announcement on when schools in other Public Health regions will open is expected on Jan. 20.
Non-essential retailers such as liquor stores, hardware stores and those offering curbside-pick up, can only be open between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Stores that sell groceries, pharmacies and restaurants are not restricted by these hours.
All construction sites deemed non-essential will also be closed.
— Tina Yazdani (@TinaYazdani) January 12, 2021
These enhanced measures are expected to be in place until at least Feb. 11.
Ford says there will be an inspection blitz at big box stores like Costco and Walmart in the coming days to ensure they are properly following COVID protocols.
“The people of Ontario, we’re strong, we’re resilient … tough times don’t last but tough people do,” said Ford.
There will also be greater authority given to officials who will enforce the new orders. People who are non-compliant will be fined and further penalties could be up to a year in jail.
Advocates have also been calling for another moratorium on evictions that was introduced during the first lockdown.
The Ford government says they are “exploring all options available to put a temporary residential evictions moratorium in place, and will have more to say in the coming days.”
The province will also be providing up to 300,000 COVID-19 tests per week to key sectors including manufacturing, warehouses, long-term care homes and schools in order to quickly identify and isolate positive cases.
View the government’s full plan below: