Ford declares province-wide 'emergency brake' due to COVID-19

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announces the province-wide “emergency brake” on Thursday Apr. 1 2021

The province's seven-day average for the number of COVID-19 cases recorded is now 2,341, up from 1,794 one week ago.

Variants now account for about 67 per cent of all new infections in Ontario, the science table says, and seem to be causing more serious forms of COVID-19 in a younger cohort of people than seen during the first or second waves.

Dr. David Williams, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, and Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of Ontario's COVID-19 science advisory table, are scheduled to begin the briefing at 10 a.m. ET.

They're already under similar restrictions to the ones announced for the rest of the province on Thursday, but Ford is calling the new measures a "shutdown".

The last time the province reported a daily case total above the 2,500 mark was on January 22, during the height of the second wave, when 2,662 infections were reported.

The province's colour-coded COVID-19 response framework will be paused for all of Ontario's 34 public health units when the shutdown comes into effect.

Ford says the province is facing a "very serious" situation and this is "a new pandemic" because of variants.

There are at least 1,953 cases of the B.1.1.7. variant in Ontario, as well as 67 B.1.351 variant and 96 P.1. variant, according to the Ontario government.

"If things go well and if people continue to follow these public health measures, we will be in a much better position to come out of the lockdown more quickly than others", said Ahmed.

Big box stores are limited to 25 per cent capacity and while businesses like grocery stores are limited to 50 per cent capacity. The shutdown is for at least four weeks and is effective April 3.

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Health Minister Christine Elliott says this is not a stay-at-home order.

All regions across the province of Ontario will be entering a sweeping shutdown as of April 3 to curb the spread of risky variants of concern, and that means new indoor and outdoor gathering limits will also come into effect.

All indoor and outdoor dining in restaurants, bars, and other food and drink establishments is prohibited. Our vaccine rollout is steadily increasing, and I encourage everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated. There will also be an earlier curfew - 8 p.m. instead of 9:30 p.m. - to further discourage social gatherings.

"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.

While we have fortunately not seen the same rate of infection in Northumberland as in harder hit areas of the province, we nevertheless continue to observe a concerning uptick in recent positive cases.

Limiting capacity at weddings, funerals, and religious services, rites or ceremonies to 15 per cent occupancy per room indoors, and to the number of individuals that can maintain two metres of physical distance outdoors.

The source, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the announcement, says schools will remain open after the Easter weekend.

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

All other personal care services, such as barbers and hair salons will be closed, along with casinos and bingo halls, cinemas, and performing arts facilities.

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