The Ontario government announced Thursday that a province-wide, four-week "emergency brake" lockdown will go into effect Saturday, April 3.
This comes as the province has 433 people with COVID-19 in its ICUs, the highest ever throughout the pandemic.
"Friends, we’re facing a very, very serious situation," Ontario Premier Doug Ford said on Thursday.
"We’re now fighting a new enemy, the new variants are far more dangerous than before. They spread faster and they do more hard than the virus we were fighting last year."
There are currently, 2,116 confirmed COVID-19 variant cases in Ontario.
The premier stressed that there are more younger people in ICUs, something the latest modelling data from the province shows. Ford had a message directly for the younger Ontarians on Thursday.
"Please, you aren't invincible," the premier said. "Imagine one of your kids or anyone's kids sitting there in ICU, a young healthy person just because they felt they were invincible. That's terrible."
How is this 'emergency brake' different than the stay-at-home order last year?
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.
"We are not going to be producing a stay-at-home order because we saw [last time] that it had tremendous ill-effect on both children and adults, and especially with the warmer weather coming, we want people to be able to go outside and enjoy the outdoors, assuming that everyone continues to follow the public health safety precautions," Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott said.
"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 difficult to do."
What's allowed in the Ontario shut down?
Permitted activities for the next four weeks includes:
Outdoor organized public events or social gatherings to a five-person maximum, except for gatherings with members of the same household, or gatherings of members of one household and one other person from another household who lives alone.
In-person shopping in all retail settings can continue with a 50 per cent capacity limit for supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, indoor farmers' markets, and a 25 per cent capacity limit for all other retail.
Weddings, funerals, and religious services, rites or ceremonies can continue with 15 per cent occupancy per room indoors, or to the maximum number of people who maintain a two-metre distance outdoors. Receptions can be organized outdoors with a limit of five people.
What's not allowed in Ontario shut down?
One of the main services that have been removed with this "emergency brake" is both indoor and outdoor dining at restaurants.
Although personal service settings, like hair salons, were expected to be able to reopen in Grey-Lockdown areas of the province on April 12, those operations are prohibited for the next four weeks.
Indoor or outdoor sports and recreational fitness must also cease operations, with exceptions including high-performance athletes and access to physical therapy for a person with a disability.
"We need to close the gap between where we are today and where we will be with the millions of vaccines we’re expecting by June," Ford said. "We need more time for our vaccine program to take hold.
"We are in a desperate race right now against an extremely, extremely aggressive and fast-moving virus. The cost of inaction is simply too high."
How are people in Ontario reacting to the announcement?
Shortly after the Ontario government made the announcement about the shut down, medical professionals in the province took to social media to share their perspective on the execution of Ontario "emergency brake" strategy.
People in live in Ontario were also quick to express significant disapproval in the actions being taken by Ford himself and his government.