The Ford government has announced a month-long, province-wide stay-at-home order, effective at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, April 8. The order is expected to end on May 8 but could be prolonged if key health indicators don’t improve.
The stay-at-home order stipulates that Ontarians are allowed to leave their homes for essential purposes only, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services, exercise, and for work that cannot be done remotely. “Make no mistake. These next four weeks are absolutely critical,” said Ford on Wednesday. “We have come so far already, and we just need to stick together a little longer because hope is on the horizon. I promise you that better days are ahead of us.”
Under this new order, all non-essential retail locations will be forced to close to all but curbside pickup. Big box stores will remain open for the sale of essential goods only. Stores that sell groceries and pharmacies will be permitted to allow customers inside.
Curbside pickup will be limited to the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 p.m., while shopping malls must designate one interior pickup location.
Construction sites and manufacturing facilities are permitted to continue operation under this latest order, while the provincial government has vowed to step up testing and enforcement of public health guidelines in these workplaces. Ford announced Wednesday that mobile vaccine clinics are being deployed to large employers, starting with hot spot regions.
To date, there have been 18 outbreaks declared at manufacturing workplaces in Simcoe-Muskoka, leading to 134 cases of COVID-19, compared to just 8 retail-based outbreaks resulting in 37 cases.
Premier Ford said, starting next week, priority vaccine access will be given to educators across the province, with a preliminary focus on hot spot regions. Health officials in Toronto, Peel Region, and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph have already ordered schools in these regions to close to in-person learning. York Region District School Board has asked its local medical officer of health to order the same, while the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit confirmed on Wednesday it has no plans to issue any school closure order.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced that all COVID-19 assessment centres and pharmacies that offer testing will be made available to students and education workers over the postponed Spring Break. This is regardless of whether symptoms are present.
The Ontario Government also declared a State of Emergency on Wednesday, its third in less than a year. The province-wide seven-day average of daily cases climbed to 2,988, which represents its highest point since January 18. ICU bed occupancy hit record highs in April. There were over 3,200 new cases confirmed on Thursday alone.
Premier Ford said Wednesday he believes at the end of the four-week order, some 40 per cent of Ontarians will have been vaccinated.
This move comes amid criticism of last week’s shutdown announcement, with education and healthcare advocates saying the measures within the shutdown order were insufficient to slow the spread of Ontario’s third wave.
The most recent stay-at-home order imposed across the province ended in Simcoe-Muskoka as of February 16.