“Things are extremely serious now and I am extremely concerned,” said Premier Ford, during a Wednesday afternoon virtual news conference.
The premier announced a new State of Emergency will be in effect at noon Thursday and last for a four-week period. That includes a “stay at home” order with a ban on all non-essential travel.
Premier Ford said the government is pursuing “a two-pronged approach” to contain both the original COVID-19 virus and the new variants. The plan hinges on increasing the number of people vaccinated along with maintaining the four-week lockdown to reduce the growing number of COVID-19 cases in hospital intensive care units.
“Our plan is to get needles in arms,” he said, “and to protect our hospitals.”
Stay at home
The new lockdown is similar to the first one in Spring 2020 when the provincial government declared a public health state of emergency in response to the pandemic.
Residents are required to avoid all non-essential travel except for shopping for groceries and other essential items, picking up prescriptions at pharmacies, and going to medical appointments.
Grocery stores and pharmacies can remain open for inside customer service with limitations on the number of people allowed inside to maintain social distancing. Non-essential businesses can operate using curbside pickup and delivery between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.
Big Box and discount stores are restricted to sales of “essential items only” such as groceries, household cleaning and sanitization products, health and personal care items, pet supplies, and pharmaceuticals if there is a pharmacy section on the premises.
There is a government list of businesses that can offer in-person sales and service by appointment only, with limitations on the number of customers allowed inside. These include safety supply stores, businesses that sell, rent, or repair medical devices or mobility aids, and similar items. Also included are optical and prescription eyewear stores, businesses that sell, rent, or repair vehicles, including cars, trucks, boats and other watercraft. Retail stores owned by a telecommunications service provider can allow customers inside to buy cellphones or have equipment repaired or serviced.
Home gardeners can go to outdoor garden centres, plant nurseries, and indoor greenhouses, but these businesses are limited to the number of people they can have inside.
Schools still open
Ontario schools and childcare facilities will remain open during the lockdown in public health regions where feasible but with strict public health safety measures in place.
All special education workers in Ontario will become eligible for vaccinations where vaccines are available. The provincial government is also setting up mobile vaccination teams to focus on “hot spot” areas in the City of Toronto and the Peel region. The vaccination teams will later expand their operations to “hot spot” neighbourhoods in Ottawa, Hamilton, Halton and Durham.
“Vaccination remains our best hope to beat this virus,” said Premier Ford, as he urged all Ontario residents who meet the current government priority guidelines for vaccination to go to the provincial vaccine appointment registration site at https://covid-19.ontario.ca/book-vaccine/ or phone toll-free 1-888-999-6488 to make an appointment.