Graphic by Alexandra Podkoscielny

As provincial COVID cases rose rapidly, Ontario imposes a new stay-at-home order

By: Alexandra Podkoscielny, Contributor

Despite many people’s illusioned hopes, hanging up a new calendar did not leave the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Only 12 days into the new year, the province of Ontario proclaimed a second provincial emergency.

In a news conference at Queen’s Park on Jan. 12, Premier Doug Ford promulgated both the state of emergency and a stay-at-home order under section 7.0.1 (1) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.

“The measures [introduced on Jan. 12] are absolutely necessary to save and protect the lives of Ontarians . . . The number of cases and the number of deaths due to COVID-19 are at the highest levels since the start of the pandemic a year ago,” said Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliot. 

“The measures [introduced on Jan. 12] are absolutely necessary to save and protect the lives of Ontarians . . . The number of cases and the number of deaths due to COVID-19 are at the highest levels since the start of the pandemic a year ago,” said Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliot. 

The number of single-day COVID case increases in Ontario reached a record peak of 4249 on Jan. 8, 2021. “By doing the right thing and staying home, you can stay safe and save lives,” said Ford.

Now, since Jan. 14, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. until at least Feb. 9, 2021, residents of Ontario are required to stay at home. “Remain in their place of residence at all times,” according to the stay-at-home order.

Now, since Jan. 14, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. until at least Feb. 9, 2021, residents of Ontario are required to stay at home.

Residents must stay home with the exception of leaving for purposes that are deemed as essential. These exceptions most notably include groceries, medicine, healthcare services and exercise. Among the many other permitted exceptions outlined by the order, people are also able to leave for essential work. Non-compliance with the order can result in fines.

The order has received some criticism for being unclear.

The order has received some criticism for being unclear. With 29 exceptions, many Ontarians are left puzzled. However, according to Ford, the order is clear. 

“There is no confusion here. It’s very simple. Stay. Home. Stay home. That’s it. If you’re questioning, “should I go out?”, you got the answer: stay home,” said Ford. 

The guidelines of the stay-at-home order layer onto previous rules and restrictions; however, some have become more stringent. During the state of emergency, non-essential businesses can only operate between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. through contactless curbside pick-up and delivery. 

“There is no confusion here. It’s very simple. Stay. Home. Stay home. That’s it. If you’re questioning, “should I go out?”, you got the answer: stay home,” said Ford.

Indoor gatherings between members of different households are now banned, with some exceptions, such as religious rites. Outdoor gatherings cannot exceed a maximum of five people and must comply by social distancing guidelines. Outdoor use of masks is now being advised during instances where social distancing is difficult as well. 

Remote learning in elementary and secondary schools is extended until Feb. 10 in schools that were in grey zones prior to the state of emergency, including Hamilton. Post-secondary institutions must continue to carry out their courses online, aside from mandatory in-person components, such as clinical training.

“[Ontario] should have somewhere around or below 1,000 new cases a day,” said Williams.

In a news conference on Jan. 18, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams explained some general requirements for the lockdown to end. “[Ontario] should have somewhere around or below 1,000 new cases a day,” said Williams.

Since the new measures were imposed, the province has had an average of approximately two-and-a-half times this proposed daily target per day and last had around 1,000 new cases per day in early November.

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