Premier Doug Ford has announced that Ontario will be returning to a State of Emergency due to increasing COVID-19 cases.
In the his daily press conference today, Ford said the state of emergency will last at least 28 days with the possibility that it could be extended if numbers have not begun to slow or drop. Additionally, the premier also announced a Stay at Home order that will take effect at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, January 14. Under this stay at home order, people in Ontario will only be able to leave their homes for groceries, medical or pharmacy appointments, exercise or essential work.
“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," Ford said.
"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."
In addition to the state of emergency and stay at home orders, the province released a list of further restrictions to help curb the spread of COVID-19, including what is being called the “U.K. variant” which has shown to be 56 percent more easily transmissible, though not necessarily more deadly. Those new or modified restrictions, per a release from the province, include:
The emergency measures also give authority to all enforcement and provincial offences officers to issue tickets to individuals who aren't in compliance with stay at home orders or wearing a mask indoors or another public space. These authorizations are extended to the OPP, local police forces, bylaw officers and provincial workplace inspectors.
At a separate press conference earlier today, the province revealed new COVID-19 modelling that shows ICUs in the province could become overwhelmed with cases by early February, with an estimated 1,000 people in hospital beds by that time. Modelling also shows that deaths from the virus are on track to increase to 100 per day by late February, a figure that is more than double the current daily number. Included in the announcement was that provincial data showed mobility and contacts between people has not gone down with the current restrictions. Ontario's Minister of Health Christine Elliott noted this continuing lack of care surrounding public health orders was impeding progress towards controlling the COVID-19 pandemic in the province.
“Despite our best efforts, COVID-19 is continuing to spread in our communities, our hospitals, our long-term care homes, and our workplaces. We are continuing to see concerning trends across the province, including a tragic number of deaths," Elliott said.
"We have made great strides in vaccinating tens of thousands of Ontarians, and we can't let these efforts go to waste. Urgent action is required to break this deadly trend of transmission, ensure people stay home, and save lives."
As part of the drive to identify and isolate COVID cases more quickly in the spaces that will be allowed to remain open over the next month, such as long term care homes and schools, Elliott said the province will be providing up to 300,000 COVID-19 tests per week
During the premier's press conference this afternoon, it was also revealed that schools in some of the harder hit regions in southern Ontario would see their return to in-class learning pushed further back to February 10, with ford reminding the province he would not hesitate to avoid taking unnecessary risks when it came to school aged children. For residents in northern parts of Ontario, the premier said it would be up to local health units to decide what steps would need to be taken for schools in their catchment areas.
tTe premier acknowledged that people are getting tired and frustrated with the continuing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, but he urged the public to remain vigilant and to continue to follow public health measures in order to keep the pandemic from getting worse and winding up where the experts fear it will.
“I've seen how tough we can be, through the first wave and beyond,” Ford said.
“As I've said before, 'tough times don't last, but tough people do' and we have the toughest people in the world right here in Ontario. My friends; stay home, stay safe and save lives.”
Ken Kellar, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times