Four-week provincewide shutdown confirmed

LIVE: Premier Doug Ford making announcement at 1:30 p.m., provincewide shutdown expected

"What we are introducing is an emergency brake shutdown that allows some activities to be carried out but the lockdown, we know, with the warmer weather coming, with all that we've asked Ontarians to sacrifice, is too hard to do".

"The lockdown should be across all sectors, because effectively what I'm hearing they're going to do is what's been happening in Toronto for the last six months and it hasn't worked".

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.

He says 2.3 million vaccines have been administered to date in Ontario, noting more pharmacies, primary care settings and mobile clinics are coming online every day.

Unlike back in December, the province is not issuing a stay-at-home order for Ontarians. All 34 health units are affected.

For the next four weeks, businesses and services will be impacted as part of the Ontario government's effort to prevent COVID-19 spread but it is not a stay-at-home order, like what happened at the end of 2020.

To date, there have been 229 confirmed cases in the Porcupine Health Unit region. Of those, 221 are recovered and 44 people have died.

There are now a total 1,014 active cases of COVID-19 in Durham Region.

"They spread faster and do more harm than the virus we were fighting previous year", Ontario Premier Doug Ford said during a news conference in Toronto on Thursday. "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". Our vaccine rollout is steadily increasing, and I encourage everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated. "That is our best protection against this deadly virus", added the Premier.

Outdoor public events and social gatherings must comply with public health advice and have no more than five people.

Indoor and outdoor dining will no longer be permitted as of Saturday.

Capacity at weddings, funerals, and religious services, rites, or ceremonies is limited to 15 percent occupancy per room indoors, and to the number of individuals that can maintain two metres of physical distance outdoors. Receptions can be organized outdoors with a limit of five people.

The move comes after intensive care admissions at Ontario hospitals reached a new high this week, with at least 421 COVID-19 patients now in the ICU. The impacts of these time-limited measures will be evaluated throughout the next four weeks to determine if it is safe to lift any restrictions or if they need to be extended.

Ontario is headed into some form of lockdown starting Saturday, but the London area's 100,000 children will remain in school amid rising COVID-19 case counts and occasional school closings. "I know the toll these restrictions continue to take on people's mental health and well-being".

With Ontario battening down for its latest fight against the virus, many are wondering whether schools will resume in-person instruction after their spring break, which was delayed in March until the week of April 12.

This morning, a group of more than 150 emergency and intensive care physicians published an open letter addressed to Ontario Premier Doug Ford and top health officials, calling for immediate and decisive action to ease the burden on hospitals.

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