“Those gathering in large groups, continuing to put themselves and others at risk (should) understand the restrictions will be strongly, strongly enforced because they must be. We know that when they are followed, these measures work. They reduce mobility and they do flatten the curve. We know this because we have seen them work before. What we need now is for everyone to follow these rules.” – Premier Doug Ford
Taking direct aim at people who flout public health measures designed to combat the spread of COVID-19, Premier Doug Ford today said restrictions against large gatherings will be strictly enforced and authorities will have beefed-up powers to enforce compliance.
He delivered the news during a press conference to announce an extension of the current stay-at-home order, from four weeks to six weeks.
“I know the majority of Ontario residents are doing the right thing, they are following the rules (and) keeping each other safe. But, we need to step up enforcement, we need to focus on those who are deliberately putting others at risk by ignoring the stay-at-home order,” he said.
“Those gathering in large groups, continuing to put themselves and others at risk (should) understand the restrictions will be strongly, strongly enforced because they must be. We know that when they are followed, these measures work. They reduce mobility and they do flatten the curve. We know this because we have seen them work before. What we need now is for everyone to follow these rules.”
In addition to extending the stay-at-home order, Ford announced a number of new restrictions, including:
• Outdoor gatherings will now be strictly limited to members of a household, however anyone who lives alone can join another household
• All non-essential construction will be halted
• Outdoor amenities, such as golf courses, basketball courts, soccer fields, and playgrounds, will be closed
• Capacity is being reduced at big box and grocery stores to 25 percent
• Beginning Monday, places of worship will be capped at a maximum of 10 people indoors
Province to establish checkpoints at Manitoba and Quebec borders
The Province is also moving to tighten mobility into and out of Ontario, said Ford.
“To get ahead of the variants that are plaguing Western Canada, beginning Monday we are setting up checkpoints at all interprovincial borders. We will be limiting access to border crossings between Ontario and the provinces of Manitoba and Quebec, with exceptions such as work, medical care, and the transportation of goods. And we are calling on the federal government to immediately tighten up our international borders to stop even more deadlier strains of the virus getting into Canada.”
Every week, said Ford, more than 36,000 people from all over the world arrive at Pearson International Airport.
The Province has also sent a letter to the premiers of other provinces asking for assistance in battling the current surge. Reports indicate there is a shortfall of 4,145 nurses in the province’s hospital sector, and that 620 nurses and respiratory therapists are needed for GTA hospitals.
The office of the Alberta Premier, Jason Kenney, replied that “with COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations on a sharp rise here in Alberta, we are simply not in a position to send our health care workers outside the province at this time.”
The news from Newfoundland and Labrador was slightly more encouraging. “We have already offered support to Ontario, and are quite happy to provide personnel, expertise, and extra equipment where capacity allows – understanding that the safety of people in our province is paramount,” said Premier Andrew Furey.
Ontario recorded 4,812 new cases today, the highest ever, and 25 more deaths. There are 1,955 COVID-19 patients being treated in hospitals, 701 in intensive care units (ICUs), of which 480 are on ventilators. Over the past two weeks there has been a 67-percent growth in COVID-related hospitalizations, and a 51-percent growth in ICU admissions. Projections suggest ICU admissions could top 1,000 by the end of April.
New modelling predicts weak public health measures lasting just four weeks could lead to more than 30,000 new daily cases of COVID-19 by the end of May. Ford said few options are left to fight the pandemic, and that it is a race between the new variants and the ability to get people vaccinated.
“I’ve never shied away from telling you the brutal, honest truth. I’ve never shied away from tough decisions, and today I am here to do just that. My friends, we are losing the battle between the variants and vaccines. The pace of vaccine supply has not kept up with the spread of the new COVID variants. We are on our heels, but if we dig in, remain steadfast, we can turn this around. We are down but by no means are we out.”
He said it comes down to three basic steps: limiting mobility, enforcing the rules, and getting vaccines into arms.
Solicitor General takes aim at people ignoring the rules
“Police will also have the authority to stop a vehicle to enquire about an individual’s reason for leaving their residence. I cannot stress this enough. It is imperative that everyone limit their trips outside their home to permitted purposes only.” – Solicitor General Sylvia Jones
Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said COVID-19 projections are moving in a dangerous direction across Ontario, with devastating consequences for the hospital system, adding it is essential that people respect the stay-at-home order and follow public health measures.
“This is a critical moment in Ontario’s response to this deadly virus and every single person in Ontario has an important role in protecting our community. Unfortunately, some people continue to attend gatherings and leave their homes for non-essential reasons. As a government, it is our responsibility to take action to address non-compliance and prevent further transmission of COVID-19. That is why … we have made the deliberate decision to temporarily enhance police officers’ authority for the duration of the stay-at-home order.”
Police will have the authority to stop people and ask them why they are not at home, and for their home address.
“Police will also have the authority to stop a vehicle to enquire about an individual’s reason for leaving their residence. I cannot stress this enough. It is imperative that everyone limit their trips outside their home to permitted purposes only.”