As expected, Ontario is again about to go under a province-wide shutdown. It will take effect at midnight.
Premier Doug Ford said he is pulling the emergency brake, just as restrictions across the province were easing.
In-person dining, personal care services and gyms will close again for the next four weeks. There will also be further restrictions on people gathering. Essential retail stores will be able to operate at 50% capacity, big box stores and other retailers at 25%.
Schools and day care centers will remain open. The planned April break for students and teachers will move ahead.
Ford said the variants of concern are increasing rapidly and that this has become a new pandemic.
"We’re now fighting a new enemy. The new variants are far more dangerous than before," Ford said. "They spread faster and they do more harm than the virus we were fighting last year. Younger people are ending up in the hospital. And with these new variants, the risk of ICU admissions is two times higher, the risk of death is one-and-a-half times higher.”
On Thursday, officials reported more than 2,500 new cases of COVID-19, a nearly 14% increase in hospitalizations and ICU admissions increasing dramatically.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said the shutdown does not include a stay-at-home order, because last time there were tremendous ill effects on both children and adults. She added, that’s why the government chose an emergency shutdown rather than a lockdown.
"Implementing a provincewide emergency brake was not an easy decision to make and is not one we take lightly," said Elliott. "As we continue to vaccinate more Ontarians, the end is in sight, but right now these necessary measures will help to stop the spread of variants in our communities, protect capacity in our health care system and save lives."