Ontario extends stay-at-home order, restricts interprovincial travel as province loses battle against COVID-19
TORONTO -- Ontario is restricting interprovincial travel, extending the state of emergency and stay-at-home order by two weeks, and placing new restrictions on recreational activities as COVID-19 cases soar.
Premier Doug Ford made the announcement on Friday, saying that "there are few options left" for the province as infection and hospitalization rates continue to hit record highs.
"I have never shied away from telling you the brutal honest truth, never shied away from tough decisions and today I am here to do just that. My friends we are losing the battle between variants and vaccines,” Ford said.
Ontario's state of emergency and stay-at-home order will now be in effect until at least May 20.
Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said that police will now have the authority to stop a vehicle or person to inquire about an individual's reason for leaving their residence.
"Police will have the authority to require any individual who is not in a place of residence to first provide their purpose for not being at home and provide their address," Jones said.
Starting Saturday, big box stores will only be able to operate at 25 per cent capacity, while all non-essential construction projects must stop work.
All outdoor recreation amenities, such as golf courses, basketball courts, and soccer fields, will be forced to close as of April 17.
Outdoor gatherings with people outside of a person's own household are also prohibited. For people living alone, they can gather with one other household.
Starting Monday, Ontario will set up checkpoints at interprovincial borders to restrict land travel between Quebec and Manitoba to essential travel only.
Travellers who are coming into Ontario for purposes other than work, medical care, transportation of goods and exercising Indigenous treaty rights will be turned back at the border. There are no new restrictions on air travel within Canada.
Also beginning Monday, places of worship will be capped at a maximum of 10 people indoors.
"I know that the majority of Ontario residents are doing the right thing," Ford said. "They're following the rules and keeping each other safe. But we need to step up enforcement and we need to focus on those who are deliberately putting others at risk by ignoring the stay-at-home order."
"Those gathering in large groups are continuing to put themselves and others at risk so understand the restrictions will be strongly, strongly enforced because they must be. We know that when they are followed these measures work.”
The new restrictions were announced just hours after new COVID-19 modelling data was released by the province, which predicts case counts to remain high.
The modelling suggests the third COVID-19 wave will continue into the summer if the current stay-at-home-order does not last at least six weeks and if Ontario does not support high-risk communities, as well as increase vaccinations.
Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, the co-chair of the advisory table, stated during the modelling update that the chances of Ontario having a more normal summer with lower daily case numbers are slim and highly depend on vaccination rates and public health measures.
NOTE: The province originally ordered the closure of all playgrounds, but reversed the decision Saturday afternoon following backlash to the order.