Queen’s Park issues stay-at-home order, effective Thursday, restricting non-essential travel in the province

All employees not essential to in-person workplace operation must work from home

Short on time? Here’s what you need to know:
-The Ontario Government has declared a second state of emergency
-A stay at home order will come into effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, with only essential trips permitted
-Those deemed non-essential to workplace operation must work from home
-New restrictions come as COVID-19 numbers continue to rise, with a forecasted 100 dead per day by the end of February

The Ontario Government has declared a second state of emergency amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and has issued a stay-at-home order. The order, effective Thursday at 12:01 a.m., will restrict travel for all but essential reasons, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services, for exercise, or for essential work. 

This will be in effect for 28 days.

“The latest modelling data shows that Ontario is in a crisis and, with the current trends, our hospital ICUs will be overwhelmed in a few short weeks with unthinkable consequences,” said Premier Ford. “That’s why we are taking urgent and decisive action, which includes declaring a provincial emergency and imposing a stay-at-home-order. We need people to only go out only for essential trips to pick up groceries or go to medical appointments. By doing the right thing and staying home, you can stay safe and save lives.”

More non-essential workers expected to work from home under new measures, with fines for those who fail to follow suit

Among the restrictions announced on Tuesday is the requirement that all those workers deemed non-essential to in-person operations of their places of employment instead must work from home. Non-essential construction sites must cease operation.

The province has promised a new limit on outdoor gatherings of five along with increased enforcement to catch rule-breakers. “Extraordinary action is needed to protect the health and safety of Ontarians as we deal with this growing crisis,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. “Our government is providing police and bylaw officers with the tools, and the authority, they need to enforce these critical restrictions and protect public health.”

Big box stores permitted to sell non-essential goods in the hopes it will cut down trips to different stores

Retailers that can remain open for in-store shopping, including big box stores like Wal-Mart and Costco, will be under reduced hours of operation, closed from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. to prevent late-night shopping trips. Queen’s Park opted not to require big box stores to close off aisles for clothing or other non-essential goods as it was felt people will do one-stop shopping trips and reduce the number of trips to the store.

The restricted hours of operation do not apply to stores that primarily sell food, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores, and restaurants for takeout or delivery.

RELATED: LOCAL RETAILER CALLS OUT GOVERNMENT AFTER MAKING LOCKDOWN PURCHASE AT WAL-MART SHE COULDN’T IN HER OWN STORE

Premier Doug Ford promised increased enforcement on such stores, saying his government will come down hard on rule violators.

These new restrictions come following public health data that shows some two-thirds of Ontarians are abiding by current measures, but not enough to reduce the spread of the virus. Data released on Tuesday indicate that, if more people don’t come on board with restrictions, the province could see around 100 deaths per day by the end of February.

RELATED: NEW COVID MODELLING DATA FORECASTS AROUND 100 DEATHS A DAY IF MORE DON’T ABIDE BY HEALTH MEASURES

“The trends in key public health indicators are continuing to deteriorate, and further action is urgently required to save lives,” said Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health. “By strictly adhering to all public health and workplace safety measures, we can reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and keep our loved ones and our communities safe. It will take the collective efforts of us all to defeat this virus.”

ICU bed occupancy rates are already at the point where surgeries are being cancelled and the impact on non-COVID-19 patients’ health is being felt.