TORONTO – With health officials suggesting the province’s health care system is about to reach a breaking point, Premier Doug Ford has announced more restrictive public health measures to try to slow the spread of COVID-19 during the third wave.
“We’re losing the battle between variants and the vaccines … we have to do more,” stated Premier Doug Ford during an April 16 press conference.
“The reality is there are few options left.”
Ford said the province’s top three priorities are limiting mobility, enforcing rules and getting vaccines in arms.
The province is extending by two weeks the emergency declaration and stay-at-home order currently in place. The earliest those could be lifted is now is mid-May.
New restrictions introduced Friday include:
- outdoor public gatherings prohibited and Ontarians can only gather with members of their own household;
- all in-store shopping (namely at pharmacies, grocery stores and convenience stores) limited to 25% capacity;
- outdoor amenities such as golf courses, sports fields/courts and playgrounds closed;
- capacity at places of worship limited to 10 people indoors and outdoors (including for weddings, funerals, etc.);
- all non-essential construction prohibited; and
- inter-provincial travel prohibited with very few exceptions.
The announcement was made the same day the province set a record for daily cases – for the second consecutive day – with 4,812 new infections.
There were 25 virus-related deaths reported Friday, with the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units across the province now over 700.
Earlier in the day, provincial health officials unveiled modelling that shows the third wave of COVID-19 could continue through the summer without a stay-at-home order lasting six weeks as well as improvements to the vaccine rollout and support for high-risk communities.
Also announced on Friday are new powers for Ontario police and bylaw officers to enforce the latest measures, as well as check points along the borders with Manitoba and Quebec to ensure there is no inter-provincial travel.
“We need to focus on those who are deliberately putting others at risk,” said Ford.
“We know that when they’re followed, these measure do work.”
Solicitor General Sylvia Jones explained police can now stop residents on the street or in their vehicles to ask why they are out and to provide their address.
Officials repeatedly expressed regret with having to implement the new measures, but stressed they are necessary to help slow the spread of the virus.
“More needs to be done right now,” said Ford.
Health minister Christine Elliott noted key health indicators continue to worsen and variant cases continue to rise across the province.
She added COVID-19 hospitalizations increased by 30% over the previous week.
To view all provincial restrictions visit covid-19.ontario.ca.