Ontario is implementing another provincewide state of emergency and cracking down on retail hours and gathering sizes as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths reach record highs.
Premier Doug Ford made the announcement from Queen’s Park this morning and announced the additional measures to help curb transmission of the deadly disease.
As of Thursday, at 12:01 a.m., the government is also issuing a stay-at-home order for at least 28 days requiring everyone to remain at home with exceptions for essential purposes.
The order is aimed at reducing people’s mobility and reducing the number of daily contacts with people outside their immediate household.
The state of emergency gives the government the power to enact new measures beyond those included in the provincewide lockdown, which began on Dec. 26, 2020.
An emergency order allows the government to close more businesses, prohibit events and gatherings and order people to stay home.
Ford also announced that retailers will be subject to shorter operation hours and that gathering sizes will be reduced from 10 to five people, with limited exceptions.
The new measures resemble the lockdown that occurred last spring during the first wave of the novel coronavirus.
A new change compared to the first wave is that non-essential workers who are currently working at their places of employment will be required to work from home or could face fines.
A curfew, similar to what Quebec implemented on Saturday, will not be implemented in Ontario.
Non-essential retail stores will be allowed to remain open but will be required to close from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m., in an effort to discourage late night shopping.
These stores will be permitted to have all their aisles open, despite some critics suggesting aisles with non-essential items should be blocked off as it’s an unfair advantage to small businesses who were forced to close during the lockdown.
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.
Non-essential construction will also be restricted, including below-grade construction, exempting survey.
As for restaurants, pick-up and delivery will still be allowed throughout the lockdown.
Health care services, including dental offices, physiotherapy and chiropractors will remain open.
Ontario first declared a state of emergency on Mar. 17, 2020 which halted much of the province’s economy as non-essential businesses, schools, daycares and some healthcare services shut down.
The state of emergency officially ended in July after the government passed the Reopening Ontario Act.
Orders under this Act must be extended every 30 days, whereas emergency orders must be extended every 15 days.