TORONTO — Ontario will issue a new stay-at-home order Wednesday to try and control a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, sources tell The Canadian Press.
Premier Doug Ford is expected to make the announcement at a news conference this afternoon, and sources say the order will take effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday morning and last for four weeks.
Stores providing essential goods will remain open during the four-week period, but they will only be permitted to sell grocery and pharmacy items.
Sources told the CBC that only grocery stores and pharmacies would allow customers to shop indoors and big box retailers would be restricted to selling only grocery and pharmacy items in-store. Garden centres would also stay open, according to CBC’s sources.
Ontario reported 3,215 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and 17 more deaths linked to the virus. There were 1,095 new cases in Toronto, 596 in Peel Region, 342 in York Region, 225 in Ottawa and 187 in Durham Region.
Provincial public health chief Dr. David Williams is warning that the numbers could rise dramatically following the Easter long weekend, when testing numbers were down and gatherings likely.
During a news conference on Tuesday, Ford had hinted at the pending new restrictions, just days after his government imposed a province-wide shutdown.
“I think we made massive moves last week by basically shutting down the entire province,” Ford said. “That was huge, shutting down thousands and thousands of businesses, that I hate doing, but we’re going to have further restrictions moving forward, very, very quickly.”
Ford’s cabinet made the decision about the stay-at-home order during a meeting Tuesday night.
Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said the government should have issued the stay-at-home order last week when Ontario’s science advisers were calling for it.
“Doug Ford was the only person in Ontario who was surprised to learn that when you leave shopping malls open … that people in fact will go to those shopping malls,” Del Duca said.
The stay-at-home order comes days after top doctors in three COVID-19 hot spots – Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa – urged the province to impose tougher restrictions, including a stay-at-home order.
During a media briefing, Peel Region’s medical officer of health, Dr. Lawrence Loh, said the variants of concerns have “won this round” in the province.
“Even if we vaccinated everyone in Peel today, we would still not see changes in our trends for over four weeks,” he said. “That means the second thing that we all need to do right now is to stay home as much as possible.”
Brampton, Ont., Mayor Patrick Brown expressed frustration with the province’s vaccine rollout.
“Vaccinate essential workers, vaccinate essential workers, vaccinate essential workers, we’re ready,” Brown said. “If we don’t focus on where the fire is, we’re going to be in the same predicament.”
The Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters said vaccinating essential workers would help keep workplaces in the province safe and open.
CEO Dennis Darby said Ontario is set to vaccinate those workers in May or June, while American workers in the same setting have largely been vaccinated.
“As a sector that employs over 750,000 essential workers in the manufacturing sector that continue to go to work every day — we must ensure that Ontario uses every resource available to them to increase vaccination rollout,” he said.
Ontario’s health minister said Wednesday that Ontario hit a new record high number for single day vaccinations with 104,382 doses administered the previous day.
“We’re getting needles into arms as quickly and safely as possible and we continue to ramp up capacity,” Christine Elliott said on social media. “Vaccines remain our best defense in the fight against (COVID-19). Please sign up when it’s your turn.”
Also, students at public schools in Toronto started taking classes fully online following an order from the city’s top doctor.
The city’s public health unit said the measure is necessary as new COVID-19 variants pose a greater risk of hospitalization and death.
Classes in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph also moved online Wednesday morning after Peel Region took schools virtual Tuesday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 7, 2021.