Ontario entering four-week province-wide shutdown effective Saturday

At a shopping mall in Toronto Ontario people wear masks as they shop on March 17

In the last ten days, infections of COVID-19 have surged in our province, with record numbers crowding Ontario's intensive care units.

"Ontario, like many other provinces and jurisdictions around the world, is in the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and immediate action is required to help turn the tide", Elliott said.

Ontario's hospital intensive care units had 421 patients critically ill with COVID-19 as of Tuesday, more than at the worst point of the pandemic's second wave.

The Ontario Science Advisory Table said that otherwise, the province could see up to 6,000 new infection cases by mid-April.

Six regions are already in Grey-Lockdown, including Toronto, Peel, and Hamilton, while another 16 areas are in the Red-Control zone when it comes to provincial restrictions.

"So it's a complete shutdown of the entire province", said Ford.

"We're facing a very, very serious situation", Ford said during a media conference in Toronto.

Of the new cases reported in Ontario, 67 per cent are the result of a variant of concern. "We are seeing younger patients on ventilators-many are parents of school-aged children".

Restricting in-person shopping in all retail settings, including a 50% capacity limit for grocery stores, convenience stores, indoor farmers' markets, other stores that primarily sell food and pharmacies, and 25 per cent for all other retail including big box stores, along with other public health and workplace safety measures.

Also announced today were additional supports for business owners impacted by shutdown measures, including an extension of the deadline to apply for the Ontario Small Business Support Grant to April 7.

This includes prohibiting all indoor organized public gatherings and limiting outdoor gatherings to a five-person maximum, except for gathering with members of the same household. There will also be an earlier curfew - 8 p.m. instead of 9:30 p.m. - to further discourage social gatherings. Our vaccine rollout is steadily increasing, and I encourage everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated.

Ford said they are doing everything they can to keep kids in class.

"While experts were warning him of explosive growth of more infectious and more deadly variants, he cancelled public health protections", said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath in a statement.

Despite outdoor dining just reopening in Oshawa as of April 1, restaurants will have to revert back to takeout, drive-thru and delivery only during the lockdown.

All personal care services are off limits.

Capacity at weddings, funerals and religious services, rites or ceremonies is limited to 15 per cent capacity per room indoors.

Thursday's lockdown will require the closure of hair salons, gyms, and indoor dining in regions not now under such restrictions.

The government has said schools will also remain open because they are crucial to students' mental health.

Up until now, patients who eventually tested negative-but were still in the ICU due to COVID-19 complications-were taken out of the province's reported daily total.

Last week, Ford announced that personal care services could reopen in lockdown regions on April. 12, but with the new shutdown in place tomorrow that will no longer be the case.

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