Toronto: Ontario has declared a state of emergency and has introduced a stay-at-home order effective Thursday amid an increase in coronavirus variant cases, Premier Doug Ford announced on Wednesday. The declaration is the third provincial emergency in Ontario.
“The COVID-19 situation is at a critical stage and we must act quickly and decisively to stay ahead of these deadly new variants,” said Premier Ford. “By imposing these strict new measures we will keep people safe while allowing our vaccination program to reach more people, starting with our high risk population and identified hot spots. Although this is difficult, I urge everyone to follow these public health measures and together we will defeat this deadly virus.”
The province-wide stay-at-home order will become effective 12:01 am [4:01 am GMT] Thursday, which will remain in effect for four weeks, Ford added.
The premier noted that non-essential businesses will be limited to curbside pick-up service, while big box stores will be limited to selling essential items, including groceries and medical supplies.
Ontario introduced a four-week lockdown starting on Saturday, but that has not stopped the surge in coronavirus variant cases. Ford noted that the daily case counts are rising faster than the worst-case scenario projected by an expert panel advising the provincial government.
Ontario’s public health authorities are recording an average of more than 3,000 new cases daily since the introduction of a third province-wide lockdown since the onset of the pandemic. Experts estimate that variants – particularly the B.1.1.7 one first identified in the United Kingdom – now make up two-thirds of all new cases. Over the past week, the province’s positivity rate is 5.1 per cent, well above the high-alert threshold of 2.5 per cent, and as of April 6, 2021, there has been a total of 2,483 cases with one of the three variants of concern (VoC). The percent of cases in the last week that tested positive for a mutation or VOC was 63.1 per cent.
(With inputs from ANI)