Health & Safety
Ontario issues COVID-19 state of emergency, stay-at-home order
School closures extended to Feb. 10 in some areas
TORONTO — Ontario is issuing an order requiring residents to stay at home starting Thursday, except for essential activities such as accessing health care or shopping for groceries.
Premier Doug Ford says he is also declaring another state of emergency effective immediately in response to surging COVID-19 infection rates.
The order is expected to remain in place for 28 days.
The new measures also include restricting the hours of operation for non-essential retail stores such as hardware stores to between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.
The premier announced the restrictions shortly after the province released new projections that show the virus is on track to overwhelm Ontario’s health-care system.
“Under this order, everyone must stay home and only go out for essential trips — to pick up groceries or go to medical appointments,” said Ford.
Some schools closed until Feb. 10
“Based on the advice from the chief medical officer of health, schools in Windsor-Essex, Peel, Toronto, York and Hamilton will remain closed for in-person learning until Feb. 10.”
“By Jan. 20, the chief medical officer of health will provide recommendations for the remaining regions.”
The premier warned “dark days” are ahead, noting the “system is on the brink of collapse.”
“I know everyone is tired. I know everyone is sick of COVID, including myself,” said Ford, before citing data indicating one-third of Ontarians are ignoring public health advice.
“I know a stay-at-home order is a drastic measure — one we don’t take lightly. Everyone must stay home to save lives. I couldn’t be any clearer.”
Inspections and enforcements will increase, he said. Officers will be given power to disperse people and issue fines.
An inspection blitz is coming on big box stores in the coming days, according to Ford.
Gathering limits decreased
Ontario’s solicitor general Sylvia Jones said greater enforcement measures will be available to officers, including crowd dispersement.
“For example, when a group of more than five people from different households are gathering outdoors, they can be asked to leave.”
Workplace inspections will be enhanced to ensure compliance, she said.
“Let me be clear. If people are found not complying with these orders, they will be subject to fines and persecution. Penalties may include up to a year in jail.”
Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, one of the experts behind the projections, says that if the province’s COVID-19 positivity rate is at five per cent, Ontario will see more than 20,000 new cases a day by the middle of next month.
If the rate climbs to seven per cent, that means the province will see 40,000 new daily cases.
Ontario reported 2,903 new cases of COVID-19 today, including eight new cases of a variant from the United Kingdom.
The province also reported 41 more deaths linked to the virus.
With files from Talent Canada