Highlights of Ontario's new stay-at-home order starting Thursday

State of Emergency declared stay-at-home order issued

The announcement was made in response to growing rates of infection of the COVID-19 virus and its variants as well as increasing cases of hospitalization.

Ontario on Thursday will begin a four-week stay-at-home order and close in-store shopping for non-essential retailers, Premier Doug Ford said on Wednesday, as the Canadian province battles a surge of COVID-19 cases. "Although this is hard, I urge everyone to follow these public health measures and together we will defeat this deadly virus".

Variants are more transmissible and increase both the risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19, the table said, which estimates they now account for about 65 per cent of all new infections in the province.

Non-essential retail outlets will be restricted to curbside pickup only and big-box stores will be restricted to essential aisles only.

Big box stores and other stores selling essentials will be allowed to stay open, but will be forced to stop selling anything other than grocery, pharmacy items, cleaning supplies, personal care, pet supplies and some other goods.

Ford encourages residents to stay at home unless it's for an essential trip, which includes things like grocery stores, pharmacies, accessing health care services (including getting vaccinated), outdoor exercise, or for work that can not be done remotely.

As vaccine supply increases, eligibility will expand to high-risk neighbourhoods in other hot spot regions, including Durham, York, Hamilton, Halton and Ottawa.

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Schools and child care will remain open for in-person care and learning in public health regions where it is permitted, with strict safety measures in place.

Ford announced yesterday that education workers who provide direct support to students with special education needs across the province, and education workers in select hot spot areas will soon be eligible to register for their vaccinations.

"We're going to be encouraging outdoor education. And again, we have to focus on where we see the problem", he said.

The Ministry said 331 people were breathing with the help of a ventilator.

ICU admissions are rising faster than the worst-case scenario modeled by experts, Ford said.

Last week, Ontario shuttered all indoor and outdoor dining, a move that fell short of what the government's expert advisory panel said was necessary to avoid catastrophically high COVID-19 case numbers.

Both Toronto and Peel closed schools this week until April 19 due to a spike in COVID-19 outbreaks.

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