With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise across the province and hospital capacity reaching critical levels, the Government of Ontario has declared a State of Emergency, effective January 13 at 12.01 am.
This means that a stay-at-home order will be issued, requiring Ontario residents across the province to only leave their homes for essential services such as grocery shopping, pharmacy and health care visits, as well as outdoor exercise or for work when the job cannot be performed from home. While masks are mandated at inside locations, those outside are also encouraged to wear masks when they cannot physically distance more than 2 metres (6 feet).
The State of Emergency will be in force for a minimum of 28 days.
“The latest modelling data shows that Ontario is in a crisis and, with the current trends, our hospital ICUs will be overwhelmed in a few short weeks with unthinkable consequences,” said Premier Doug Ford.
“That’s why we are taking urgent and decisive action, which includes declaring a provincial emergency and imposing a stay-at-home-order. We need people to only go out only for essential trips to pick up groceries or go to medical appointments. By doing the right thing and staying home, you can stay safe and save lives.”
A press release from the Government of Ontario said that the stay-at-home order along with existing and new public health restrictions are designed to curb mobility and minimizing the risk of daily contact with others outside the immediate home.
The State-of-Emergency measures include:
- Limiting outside public gatherings to a maximum of 5 people (with limited exceptions)
- Non-essential retailers (including hardware stores and those that dispense alcohol are required to open no earlier than 7.00 am and close no later than 8.00 pm)
- The closure of non-essential construction projects, including below-grade construction and exempting surveys.
Premier Ford has said that fines will be significant for those that flout the rules, with police and by-law officers being given special powers to enforce the stay-at-home order and issue tickets to those that do not comply.
Provincial modelling has shown that the rising number of COVID-19 cases could see hospital bed occupancy reach 1,000 by the end of February which has the potential to overwhelm Ontario’s healthcare system. Projections also peg the number of COVID-19 related deaths doubling from 50 to 100 by the end of February.
The trends in key public health indicators are continuing to deteriorate, and further action is urgently required to save lives,” said Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario.
“By strictly adhering to all public health and workplace safety measures, we can reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and keep our loved ones and our communities safe. It will take the collective efforts of us all to defeat this virus.”