Ontario is entering another lockdown at 12:01 am Thursday, April 8th.  Premier Doug Ford announced the stay-at-home order Wednesday afternoon for at least the next four weeks until May 6th.  Unlike the order issued in January, this one seems to come with more bite.

Under the order, people are required to stay at home except for essential reasons like grocery shopping, pharmacies, medical appointments (including vaccinations), and for exercise close to home and with the people they live with.

Employees not deemed essential must work from home and you are being asked not to travel to other regions.  Indoor gatherings of anyone other than people in your household are forbidden.

School and daycares will be open in health unit regions that are allowing it. In addition beginning during the April break, education workers who provide direct daily support to students with special education needs in Toronto and Peel, and all education workers in high-risk neighbourhoods in Toronto and Peel, will be eligible for vaccination. As vaccine supply allows, eligibility will expand to high-risk neighbourhoods in other hot spot regions, including York, Ottawa, Hamilton, Halton and Durham, followed by a rollout across the province as supply allows.

Grocery stores and pharmacies will remain open. All non-essential retail including malls will be ordered closed for in-store shopping but can offer curbside by appointment. Big box stores like Walmart and Costco will have to rope off aisles of non-essential items and stick to selling essential goods like groceries, household cleaning supplies, pharmacy items, health care, and personal care items, and pet care supplies.

Other stores permitted to open with a 25-percent capacity limit and only from 7:00 am to 8:00 pm are as follows:

o Safety supply stores;

o Businesses that primarily sell, rent or repair assistive devices, aids or supplies, mobility devices, aids or supplies or medical devices, aids or supplies;

o Rental and leasing services including automobile, commercial and light industrial machinery and equipment rental;

o Optical stores that sell prescription eyewear to the public;

o Businesses that sell motor vehicles, boats and other watercraft;

o Vehicle and equipment repair and essential maintenance and vehicle and equipment rental services; and o Retail stores operated by a telecommunications provider or service, which may only permit members of the public to enter the premises to purchase a cellphone or for repairs or technical support.

o Permitting outdoor garden centres and plant nurseries, and indoor greenhouses that engage in sales to the public, to operate with a 25 percent capacity limit and a restriction on hours of operation.

The province is pointing to rising COVID-19 cases that are overwhelming hospitals. The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the province has increased by 28.2 percent between the period of March 28 and April 5, 2021. In addition, between March 28 and April 5, 2021, Ontario has seen the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care escalate by 25 percent.

Premier Doug Ford called the decision to lockdown the province for the third time difficult, “The COVID-19 situation is at a critical stage and we must act quickly and decisively to stay ahead of these deadly new variants,” said Ford. “By imposing these strict new measures, we will keep people safe while allowing our vaccination program to reach more people, starting with our high-risk population and identified hot spots. Although this is difficult, I urge everyone to follow these public health measures and together we will defeat this deadly virus.”

Liberal leader Stephen Del Duca says Ford’s inability to act has caused intensive care units to drown under the pressure, “Doug Ford’s approach during the third wave is not only insufficient but detrimental to Ontario’s fight against COVID-19. His failure to lead has and will continue to have grave consequences.”

Meanwhile, the Canadian Union of Public Employees is calling on the Ford government to legislate paid sick days and ramp up vaccinations to frontline workers, “What we need is a vaccine rollout plan which immediately includes workers in factories, grocery stores, schools, shelters, transit, childcare, in agriculture and food production,” said Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario. “We need one that prioritizes migrant workers, as well as Black, racialized, and Indigenous communities that have been impacted the most.”