Ontario imposing stay-at-home order as pandemic’s third wave builds

Premier Doug Ford during a media briefing. 8 February 2021. (Screenshot from CPAC)

The province of Ontario has issued a four-week stay-at-home order to try to gain control of the pandemic’s variant-fuelled third wave.

Premier Doug Ford said the province is declaring its third state of emergency with new measures taking effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

The stay-at-home order means non-essential retail stores are being limited to curbside pickup only. Grocery stores and pharmacies are allowed to stay open, while big-box retail stores are restricted to selling only grocery and pharmacy essentials.

The province will not be closing schools and child-care facilities following next week’s spring break, although medical officers of health in Toronto, Peel Region and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph have already unilaterally ordered online learning only in their jurisdictions.

The provincial government said case rates, hospitalizations, and ICU occupancy are increasing rapidly, threatening to overwhelm the health care system. The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the province have increased by 28.2 per cent between the period of March 28 and April 5, 2021 and during that time COVID-19 patients in intensive care escalated by 25 per cent. While every action possible is being taken to increase capacity and continue daily surgeries and procedures, the province is reaching a tipping point.

Bluewater Health President and CEO Mike Lapaine said the effectiveness of the stay-at-home order depends on how people modify their behaviour.

“It’s unfortunate because I believe a year ago people were more than willing to do what it takes to prevent the spread,” said Lapaine. “Now I think with fatigue setting in, I don’t know if that’s the case anymore.”

Lapaine said getting more vaccines is crucial to slowing the spread of the virus, on top of public health measures and lockdowns.

“It’s becoming a cliché, but right now we’re in a race between the vaccines and the variants and the variants are winning,” he said. “The vaccines are very, very important. We want almost everyone to be vaccinated if you really want to attempt to snuff this out.”

A quarter of Sarnia-Lambton’s eligible population has now received at least an initial COVID shot.

Lambton Public Health says 28,495 people have been vaccinated, including 1,561 second doses.

The Ontario government has now opened registration for individuals aged 60 to 69 and for those under 60 with specific high-risk medical conditions.

Further information can be found here.

-With files from Dave Dentinger and Sue Storr