Province extending stay-at-home orders, tightening restrictions

Premier Doug Ford addressing the province of Ontario on Friday, Apr. 16, 2021 to announce further restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The current emergency declaration and stay-at-home orders will be extend by two weeks, for a total of six weeks under the restrictions, which will now continue into May 2021.

The announcement was made by Premier Doug Ford at a delayed press conference on Friday, Apr. 16, 2021. No press release or background information was released to the media, nor the public at the time, so the following information is true to what Ford said just after 4 p.m.

“Good afternoon. I’ve never shied away from telling you the brutal, honest truth, never shied away from tough decisions. And today, I’m here to do just that,” Ford began. “My friends, were losing the battle between the variants and the vaccines. The pace or vaccine supply has not kept up with the spread of the new COVID variants… We may be down, but [by] no means are we out.”

He went on to say that, in the last few weeks, the province has “pulled the emergency brake,” and “shut down schools,” but that, when considering the modelling to projected COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, “we need to do more.”

“As your Premier, it falls on me to make the difficult choices. It falls on me to do what’s necessary,” Ford said. “So, effective immediately, we’re extending the emergency declaration and prolonging the stay-at-home order province-wide for an additional two weeks for a total of six weeks.

“Outdoor gatherings will now be strictly limited to members of your own household only. Anyone who lives alone can join with one other household,” he continued, before listing off a number of new restrictions.

Those restrictions include “closing all non-essential construction,” and “restricting all outdoor recreational amenities, such as golf courses, basketball courts, soccer fields and playgrounds.” They also include, according to Ford:

  • Reducing capacity in big box retail even further to 25 per cent
  • Places of worship will be capped at a maximum of 10 people indoors beginning on Monday, Apr. 19, 2021
  • Setting up checkpoints at all interprovincial borders, and be limiting access to border crossings between Ontario and the provinces of Manitoba and Quebec, with exceptions such as work, medical care, or transportation of goods
  • calling on the federal government to immediately tighten up international borders

“We’re currently facing the devastating consequences of COVID variants that entered Canada through our borders at the start of this year,” said Ford. “We need to do more to stop other even deadlier variants from getting into Canada and costing and causing more havoc… They got in through our borders and more needs to be done right now.”

Ford then turned his attention to the enforcement side of COVID-19 restrictions in the province.

“For our part, we’re taking decisive action on the ground to dramatically step up enforcement. We have made the difficult but necessary decision to give police and bylaw officers special authorities to enforce Public Health measures for the duration of the stay-at-home order,” he said, noting that he believes “the majority of Ontario residents are doing the right thing.”

“But we need to step up enforcement, we need to focus on those who are deliberately putting others at risk by ignoring the stay-at-home order,” he continued.

“So we understand the restrictions will be strongly, strongly enforced. Because they must be. We know that when they’re followed, these measures work, they reduce mobility, and they do flatten the curve. We know this, because we’ve seen them work before. What we need now is for everyone to follow these rules.”

Ford said his government will be putting pressure on the federal government to increase the vaccine supplies for Ontario, and that “if there’s anything at all the federal government can do right now to get us more vaccines, we need to get them now.”

“I can’t emphasize that enough,” he said.

In terms of bolstering hospital and ICU capacity across the province, Ford said the government is “moving forward with our emergency plan to add another 700 to 1000 new beds.”

“We don’t want to use this new capacity. But I want the people of Ontario to rest assured it is there if we need it,” he said.

“Please stay home, follow the rules, and get your vaccine as soon as you’re eligible. My friends, you have my word: We will not rest until this virus is beaten.”

Ford was followed by Christine Elliot, Minister of Health, who disclosed some more restrictions the province is rolling out.

“We are taking immediate action to respond to the ongoing threats to the health and safety of Ontarians effective Saturday, Apr. 17, at 12:01 a.m.,” she said.

“Capacity limits for in person shopping in all retail settings, where in person shopping is permitted, including supermarkets grocery stores, convenience stores, that primarily sell food and pharmaceutical products will be limited to 25 per cent capacity. All outdoor recreational amenities such as golf courses, basketball, court, and playgrounds will be closed,” Elliot continued.

“In addition, effective Monday, April 19, at 12:01 a.m., capacity at weddings, funerals and religious services will be limited to 10 people indoors or outdoors. Driving services will be permitted. All other public health and workplace safety measures for non-essential retail under the province wide emergency brake will continue to apply.

“I am asking all Ontarians to please stay home to stop the third wave from threatening our healthcare system.”

Dr. Kieran Moore, Medical Officer of Health for KFL&A Public Health addresses residents of the region on Friday, Apr. 16, 2021.

For his part here in Kingston, Dr. Kieran Moore released a video just prior to the Premier’s announcement, imploring those in the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) region to stay at home as much as possible.

“We’re probably going to hear some very difficult news from the Premier today,” Moore said in an obviously more somber tone than he usually has.

“We’re going to hear that the number of people admitted to hospital is going up, the number of people in intensive care units is going up. So the threat of COVID-19 has never been higher in our community.”

Moore said the region has done well in the past year in trying to limit the spread of COVID-19.

“But I’m asking our community to dig down a little deeper to try to do your best to minimize the number of contacts we have in the community,” he continued. “As well, please stay in KFL&A. We remain one of the safer areas in Ontario. Minimize your travel, stay to your home as much as you can…

“Together, we’ll get through this. It will be a very difficult April, and May, now,” Moore expressed.

“We’ve had great success in the past, I’m sure we can repeat it going forward, but I have to tell you from my heart that this is going to be a very difficult time, and we all have to do our best to limit the spread within KFL&A.”

At 5:40 p.m., the Ontario government released the official documentation coinciding with Ford’s announcement, which can be read here. Some quick facts from that documentation regarding measures the government will be implementing as of Saturday, Apr. 17, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. are as follows:

  • Prohibit all outdoor social gatherings and organized public events, except for with members of the same household or one other person from outside that household who lives alone or a caregiver for any member of the household;
  • Close all non-essential workplaces in the construction sector;
  • Reduce capacity limits to 25 per cent in all retail settings where in-store shopping is permitted. This includes supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, indoor farmers’ markets, other stores that primarily sell food and pharmacies; and,
  • Close all outdoor recreational amenities, such as golf courses, basketball courts, soccer fields, and playgrounds with limited exceptions.

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