Ontario entering four-week province-wide shutdown effective Saturday

Premier Doug Ford in June 2020

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.

"They spread faster and do more harm than the virus we were fighting past year", Ontario Premier Doug Ford said during a news conference in Toronto on Thursday.

"This is a new pandemic, we are now fighting a new enemy".

The measures announced Thursday shutter personal care services and restaurant dining rooms across the province, but allow other essential and non-essential businesses to operate with tighter capacity limits and requires schools to stay open. Indoor social gatherings are prohibited and outdoor gatherings will be limited to five people.

Schools are slated to reopen after the end of this week's postponed spring break, which concludes on April 9.

On Thursday, officials reported more than 2,500 new cases of COVID-19, a almost 14% increase in hospitalizations and ICU admissions increasing dramatically.

Prohibiting indoor and outdoor dining.

All sports and recreational facilities are closed with the exception of day camps and childcare.

The shutdown was implemented as a result of rising COVID-19 variant cases and a record-breaking number of admissions to the intensive care unit as a result of the disease. "All 34 public health regions will move into shutdown for a period of four weeks". "We also see, you know the people gathering in large groups that were totally discouraging".

Today, there are 954 new cases in Toronto, 434 in Peel, 348 in York Region, 205 in Ottawa, 146 in Hamilton, and 91 in Halton.

"We need more runway to allow our vaccination rollout to get where we need it, and that means we need to take action now", said Ford.

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"We saw that last time that it had tremendous ill-effect on both children and adults".

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

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.

Ontario has also reported more than 2,000 new infections for the past seven consecutive days.

Employers should make "every effort" to have employees work from home.

Rather than introducing that measure, the province has encouraged people to get tested for COVID-19 so they can apply for federal benefits if the virus forces them to stay home.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said Thursday that the province made a decision to go with a shutdown versus full stay-at-home ordersin order to lessen the impacton peoples' mental health.

Ontario's science advisers are suggesting a stay-at-home order is needed to control Ontario's third wave of COVID-19.

The last stay-at-home order and shutdown in the province lifted in mid-February.

Meanwhile, more than 150 intensive care unit doctors signed an open letter to the government on Thursday, calling for new, stricter, measures.

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