Ontario extends stay-at-home order, announces tighter restrictions

Premier Doug Ford announced tighter COVID-19 restrictions. April 16, 2021. (Capture via CPAC YouTube)

Premier Doug Ford has confirmed the government will place more COVID-19 restrictions on the province, including closing playgrounds and travel to neighbouring provinces.

The stay-at-home order will continue for an additional two weeks, making it a six week order.

“We’re losing the battle between the variants and vaccines. The pace of our 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,” Premier Ford said.

Effective Saturday at 12:01 a.m., all outdoor gatherings are restricted to only people in the same household. Big box stores are required to limit capacity to 25 per cent.

Non-essential construction will cease, all outdoor recreation areas such as golf courses, soccer fields, and playgrounds will be closed.

Other than for work, non-essential land travel between Ontario and Quebec and Manitoba is also restricted and checkpoints will be in place.

Police will have the authority to stop cars and people in the street to ask why they are not home and ask for their address. A ticket upwards of $750 could be issued for those who refuse to answer.

Starting Monday at 12:01 a.m., weddings, funerals, and religious services will be limited to 10 people both indoors and outdoors.

Ford says the extended rules are necessary to slow the spread of the virus.

“As the latest modelling confirms, without taking immediate and decisive action, COVID-19 cases will spiral out of control and our hospitals will be overwhelmed,” Ford said.

“That’s why we are making difficult, but necessary decisions to reduce mobility and keep people in the safety of their own homes. We need to contain the spread of this deadly virus, while getting vaccines in as many arms as quickly as possible.”

Official Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath says the premier has offered no new public health protections.

“[The premier] has been warned again and again by experts, and he is still choosing to push us all right into a long, deep, deadly catastrophe,” said Horwath. “Thousands will get sick. Precious lives will be lost. He walked us right into this crisis with eyes wide open, and now all Ontarians will be stuck in this living nightmare for much longer.”

Horwath says Ford needs to give all workers paid sick days and time off to get a vaccine, she adds that stronger air-travel restrictions need to be put in place and all non-essential businesses need to close.

“Making this all about punishment and enforcement is the ultimate way for Ford to blame Ontarians.”

Meanwhile, the province is calling on the federal government to assist with getting Ontario more vaccines.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he signed an agreement with Pfizer on Friday to secure an additional eight million doses of the vaccine.

Four million Pfizer-BioNTech shots are expected to arrive in May, and two million more will arrive in both June and July. The deal comes as Moderna revealed upcoming vaccine shipments will be significantly less than originally planned.