The Ontario government is imposing a provincewide “shutdown” in an effort to combat a recent spike in COVID-19 infections.
All regions of the province will be placed under the new restrictions for four weeks starting 12:01 a.m. Saturday as the province imposes an “emergency brake.”
Six regions are currently in Grey-Lockdown, including Toronto, Peel and Hamilton, while another 16 areas are in the Red-Control zone when it comes to provincial restrictions.
The new designation has caused much confusion as there are very few differences between the Grey-Lockdown zone and the “shutdown” restrictions. However while the “emergency brake” is in place, the province’s current colour-coded framework will be paused.
Patios, which just reopened in Toronto and Peel Region, will have to close while restaurants and bars can still remain open for takeout and delivery.
Indoor gatherings with people outside of your household are not permitted and outdoor gatherings are limited to five people with social distancing measures in place.
“The decision was not made lightly,” Ford said in announcing the measures. “I know the toll these restrictions continue to take on people’s mental health and wellbeing.”
“We have to crunch down one more time … it’s a sacrifice we have to make,” he added.
Non-essential retail will be allowed to remain open with a 25 per cent capacity limit as is currently permitted in the grey zones.
Some outdoor activities will be allowed such as golf, but team sports will not be allowed. There will also be no travel restrictions within Ontario.
Hair and nail salons along with barbershops that were scheduled to reopen on April 12 under modified Grey-Zone restrictions will now remain closed.
Religious ceremonies will also be limited to a 15 per cent capacity.
Schools will remain open next week as they prepare to head into the delayed spring break, scheduled to begin April 12. It’s uncertain if students will return to the class following the week-long break.
The province had started to reopen its economy earlier this month, but included the “emergency brake” measure as part of the plan that would allow it to impose necessary restrictions if cases spike.
Earlier Thursday, new modelling showed a stay-at-home order for four weeks was necessary to curb the spread of COVID-19. Dr. Adalsteinn Brown said this data was based on the stay-at-home order that was put in place in January.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said a stay-at-home order was not put in place this time because it was too hard on people.
For the seventh day in a row, Ontario reported more than 2,000 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, while the number of patients in intensive care units (ICU) reached the highest number since the pandemic began last year.
Critical Care Services Ontario, which tracks hospitalizations in the province, stated that 421 patients are currently in the ICU with a COVID-19-related critical illness.
In its daily update, the province said 1,111 people are currently being treated in hospital overall.
The latest report from the province’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table showed that variants of concern (VOC) have sent more Ontarians to the ICU, and that people infected with the variants were more likely to be hospitalized and die.
The advisory group also said in its report that as of March 28, variants comprised 67 per cent of all infections, and the B.1.1.7 variant that was first detected in the United Kingdom made up 90 per cent of variant cases.