Ontario has declared its third statewide emergency as the number of COVID-19 cases spikes, issuing a home order effective from 12:01 am on Thursday and will last for four weeks.
The province is also expanding vaccine eligibility for more people over the age of 18 in regions hardest hit by the virus, starting with Toronto and Peel Region.
Premier Doug Ford said mobile teams are being organized to offer vaccines to those 18 and over in high-risk congregate settings, residential buildings, faith-based locations and locations occupied by large employers in hot-spot neighbourhoods. Education workers in high-risk neighbourhoods will be allowed to book vaccinations starting next week, he said.
If vaccination supplies stay consistent, Premier Ford said, 40 per cent of Ontario adults should be vaccinated by the end of the four-week stay-at-home order.
Wednesday’s new measures do not include paid sick days despite repeated calls by medical professionals, including the medical officers of health from Toronto, Peel and Ottawa.
The stay-at-home order requires all Ontarians to remain at home except for essential purposes such as grocery shopping, accessing health-care services (including COVID-19 vaccinations), work that cannot be done remotely and exercise close to home with only those from one’s household.
Non-essential retailers will be limited to curbside pick-up and delivery. Access to malls will be limited to specific purposes such as curbside pick-up. Big-box store retail will also be limited to selling essential items such as groceries, household supplies, pharmacy items and personal care items.
Schools and child care will remain open in public health regions that permit them to be open.
The province says new measures will be introduced following the spring break next week, including asymptomatic testing at assessment centres between April 12 and April 18, confirmation of self-screening for COVID-19 symptoms upon arrival to school and refresher training on safety protocols for students and staff.
Also, during this time, landlords cannot evict a tenant.
Capacity will be limited to 25 and by appointment only at safety supply stores, optical stores, businesses selling motor vehicles, boats and other watercraft, vehicle repair and rental, telecommunications retailers. Garden centres and nurseries can continue to operate with a 25 per cent capacity.
The medical officers of health from three of Ontario’s biggest public health units — Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa — urged the province on Monday to impose a stay-at-home order, travel restrictions between regions and an emergency mandate for paid sick days.
The top public health doctors in Toronto and Peel Region also ordered the closure of schools, sending nearly 600,000 students to online-only classes just days ahead of a rescheduled week-long spring break. Students in the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph health unit are similarly shifting to online learning for the time being.
The associations representing doctors and nurses have issued statements saying more is needed to prevent further deaths and to ensure the health care system is not overloaded.
Ontario has reported an average of more than 2,800 new COVID-19 cases daily for the past week. There are 504 people with COVID-19 being treated in ICU intensive care units.
In Toronto, the health care system has become so strained that the Hospital for Sick Children yesterday announced that it would set up an eight-bed, temporary special care unit. COVID-19 personnel are 40 years of age or younger. This new unit will help ease the burden on other hospitals in the city, as the city reported 1,095 new cases of COVID-19 infection in its update this morning.
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