Ontario going into a month-long 'shutdown' Saturday

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announces the province-wide “emergency brake” on Thursday Apr. 1 2021

Essential stores will remain open at 50 percent capacity and non-essential retail can operate at 25 percent capacity.

Three schools in Woodstock have been temporarily closed recently amid COVID-19 outbreaks, the latest one this week by the Thames Valley board, Southwestern Ontario's largest school system.

With the Easter long weekend hours away, Ontario Premier Doug Ford has announced that all 34 Public Health Regions of Ontario will move into shutdown. We are now fighting a new enemy. No indoor social gatherings are permitted and outdoor gatherings are limited to no more than five people. Takeout and delivery remain an option, however.

The rules are slightly more lax for religious, wedding and funeral services in Ontario, however, with indoor events permitted to host up to 15 per cent of a room's capacity. Ontario has the toughest restrictions in all of North America right now.

"This is a top priority", he says. "I know pulling the emergency brake will be hard on many people across the province, but we must try and prevent more people from getting infected and overwhelming our hospitals".

Health Minister Christine Elliott says this is not a stay-at-home order, admitting the last one had "tremendous ill effects on children and adults".

"Two weeks ago, medical officers of health were out discussing the fact that outdoor gathering is good for mental health and is a safe way for people to congregate and here we are, less than two weeks later, being told there's a potential we'll be shut down again", he said. The processes we now have in place to protect staff and members of the public are in compliance with the new measures announced by the Province, and will ensure ongoing business continuity as we continue to deliver the essential municipal services on which our community relies.

The government is also asking employers in all industries to allow employees to work from home whenever possible. "As always, we will closely monitor the situation and not hesitate to act to protect our kids and families".

The Ontario government is imposing a provincewide "shutdown" in an effort to combat a recent spike in COVID-19 infections. "We have never had more Ontarians in intensive care than we do today".

"The current measures and framework are not working to contain the spread of this virus", reads the letter in part.

With these new variants, Ford says the risk of ICU admission is two times higher and the risk of death is one-and-a-half times higher.

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At this time, schools will remain open.

Variants now account for about 67 per cent of all new infections in Ontario, the science table says, and seem to be causing more serious forms of COVID-19 in a younger cohort of people than seen during the first or second waves.

Ontario has also reported more than 2,000 new infections for the past seven consecutive days.

There are also 78 confirmed COVID-19 variant cases across the region.

"If things go well and if people continue to follow these public health measures, we will be in a much better position to come out of the lockdown more quickly than others", said Ahmed.

He says the province's vaccine rollout is not reaching the highest risk communities, which is delaying its impact as an effective strategy to fight the pandemic.

Personal care services are prohibited.

Ford defended his decision at the time, saying he was "very, very concerned", adding that "we're loosening it up, just a little bit".

From March 26 to 28, provincial case rates have increased by 7.7 per cent to 101.1 cases per 100,000 people.

Variants of concern are fueling a third wave of the pandemic in Ontario, leading to more hospitalizations and ICU admissions.

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