Ontario to issue new four-week stay-at-home order beginning Thursday, sources say

Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government is set to impose a province-wide stay-at-home order and close non-essential stores to in-person shopping, multiple sources told The Globe and Mail.

The new restrictions, which will be unveiled by Mr. Ford at a Wednesday afternoon press conference, also include limiting big box stores to selling only groceries, pharmacy products and garden items, according to three sources with knowledge of the government’s plan, who were not authorized to speak publicly. Non-essential retail stores will move to curbside pickup only.

Schools in the province will stay open, although local health officials in both Toronto and Peel Region have shuttered their schools for at least two weeks in the face of rising COVID-19 cases.

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Sources say the order will take effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday morning and last for four weeks.

This week, top doctors in Toronto, Ottawa and Peel called on the government to impose a stay-at-home order to curb more contagious COVID-19 variants. Mr. Ford last week announced what he called a province-wide “shutdown” that left malls and other stores open.

The Premier this week said more restrictions are needed, particularly in the hotspots of Toronto, Peel and York Region, which account for 60 per cent of the province’s COVID cases. It is unclear whether those three regions will face any additional measures.

The government is facing increasing pressure to address coronavirus outbreaks in essential workplaces. The province on Tuesday launched the second phase of its vaccine plan, which includes targeting high-risk communities. Ontario is also expected to announce increased testing and enforcement at manufacturing and construction sites, as well as mobile vaccination units at workplaces.

On Tuesday, the province reported 3,065 cases of COVID-19, with 69 deaths since Thursday. Hospitalizations continue to grow, with 510 people – the highest number since the beginning of the pandemic – now in intensive care, up from 387 a week ago, according to Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health.

Ontario’s top doctor says testing over the holiday weekend does not reflect the growth of COVID-19 spread and the province could be facing increasing numbers in the next few days. Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams says a major concern are the numbers of younger people presenting at hospitals with more severe cases from the outset requiring immediate access to intensive care units. The Canadian Press

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