Global News has learned the Ontario government is currently considering implementing a stay-at-home order and closing non-essential retail businesses provincewide in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Sources told Global News that under the plan still being considered late Tuesday, non-essential retail stores would be limited to curbside pickup.
Big-box stores, meanwhile, would be restricted to essential aisles only, marking a shift in policy from past lockdowns when the stores were allowed to sell non-essential items, much to the frustration of many small businesses.
The stay-at-home order would likely be in place for a month, beginning Thursday when it would come into effect.
Schools are expected to remain open for in-person learning, other than in areas where local medical officers of health have ordered their closure. Sources were not able to say if remote learning would be in place provincewide under the stay-at-home order and that it will be determined after the April break.
The announcement is expected to come Wednesday and may include another state of emergency declaration. Premier Doug Ford has a scheduled press conference at 2 p.m. Global News will livestream that here.
Sources said the government likely won’t be suspending time-of-use electricity pricing as was the case in past lockdowns, though there are other proposals being considered.
There will be increased testing and enforcement at manufacturing and construction sites which will be permitted to stay open; mobile vaccinations may also take place at community-based manufacturing facilities, sources said.
A moratorium on residential evictions was also being considered.
There will likely police enforcement powers of some of the new restrictions, though this may not be ready by the time the measures come into place, sources said.
The measures are still set to undergo further review, possibly leading to adjustments, with cabinet members scheduled to meet Wednesday at 11 a.m. to finalize details.
During a press conference Tuesday, Ford hinted at the possibility of more restrictions being imposed in addition to measures put in place last week as part of a “provincewide shutdown.”
The shutdown, which took effect Saturday, meant, among other things, that in-person dining, personal care services, and gyms had to close. Non-essential in-person retail could remain open with capacity restrictions.
However, Ford expressed frustration Tuesday about seeing scenes of a packed Yorkdale Mall parking lot over the long weekend.
“It was absolutely jampacked and I truly was hoping that people wouldn’t be going in there to the volume that we saw,” he said.
“Folks, this variant is taking off and please when you can, follow all protocols. Make sure when you can, stay at home. We understand you’ve got to get out, get fresh air, God bless you, but do it responsibly…
“Going to the malls is not essential. What’s essential is going to buy food, going to buy medicine out of the pharmacies and getting your vaccines.”
On Sunday, the medical officers of health for Toronto, Peel Region, and Ottawa sent a letter to the province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David WIlliams, calling for a provincewide stay-at-home order and additional business closures in a bid to slow the spread of the virus.
Ontario has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in recent weeks. On Tuesday, 3,065 cases were reported along with eight more deaths.
There were reported to be 510 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units throughout the province, which is the highest since the pandemic began.
— With files from Jason Chapman and Nick Westoll
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