Canadas Ontario to go into four-week lockdown amid coronavirus cases rise

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

Non-essential retail stores can stay open, but at 25 per cent capacity.

Some outdoor activities will be allowed such as golf, but team sports will not be permitted.

"It's spreading far more quickly than it did before and we can not vaccinate quickly enough to break this third wave. We're fighting a new enemy", Ford said.

Indoor organized public events and social gatherings are not permitted, and outdoor gatherings are limited to no more than five people.

"If you live alone, you can have close contact with only one other household", the province says.

On March 20, both Toronto and Peel allowed outdoor dining as changes were made to Grey Zone restrictions. Takeout and delivery remain an option, however.

The capacity limit for weddings, funerals and other religious services indoors is 15 per cent, while outside can be the number of people that can maintain two metres physical distance. All 34 health units are affected.

On Thursday, the region saw 84 new cases.

In a four-day period last week, one physician reported treating a dozen patient in ICU all under 60, none of whom had prior medical histories.

"This is a top priority", he says.

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.

"Effective, Saturday, April 3 at 12:01 a.m. [4:01 a.m. GMT], Ontario will pull the emergency brake for the entire province", Ford told reporters. Child care settings will continue to adhere to stringent health and safety measures so that they remain safe places for children and staff.

"If we don't think this and take action, we will be in deep trouble", the Premier continued.

Earlier this week, the president of Ontario's Hospital Association (OHA), said hospitals reached a record high with at least 421 COVID-19 patients now in the province's intensive care units. "The variants of concern are spreading rapidly".

The letter says doctors are seeing younger patients on ventilators and many are parents of school-aged children.

The number of people in intensive care was 121, up two from the day before.

Ontario's science advisers confirm the troubling trend, saying on Thursday that strict, stay-at-home orders are needed to control the third wave of COVID-19 in the province.

It's the third day in a row the province tallied more than 1,000 new infections, and the highest daily number since January 26.

The province confirmed 2,557 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Thursday.

Advisers said new pandemic modelling indicates the third wave is being driven by more deadly variants.

Compounding that, Brown said COVID-19 vaccinations are not reaching the highest risk communities. "What we've been doing (in Ontario) has really not been working".

Quebec's rules include a curfew banning people from leaving their homes between 9:30 p.m. and 5 a.m.in most regions, though the start of the curfew has been moved back to 8 p.m.in the province's three newly locked-down cities. He also mentioned the prevalence of cases involving variants of concern, which have also been steadily increasing over the past month.

"They're all dealing with the effects of a third wave and a unsafe new variant", Ford says, adding the decision for the shutdown was "not made lightly".

The Ford government has faced criticism over its failure to offer supports for essential workers, particularly teachers, in the COVID-19 hot spots, including paid sick days. "We've got a lot of case numbers, and that's what's giving us the most current information on where this pandemic has gone".

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