Ontario Premier Doug Ford has extended the province's state of emergency for another two weeks. At the same time, however, he also announced the slight easing of some restrictions.
The state of emergency was first announced in mid-March, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was extended a month later. Now all emergency orders are being extended again, until May 19.
“We must continue to restrict social gatherings," said Ford. "We must continue to keep non-essential workplaces closed. We must continue to put an iron ring around our seniors. And we must continue to test the most vulnerable and those who care for them.”
Shortly after that, Ford also announced a list of more businesses that will be allowed to open this weekend, such as hardware stores. He also broadened the list of construction projects. Ford had a message for other retailers.
“As of Monday May 11th at 12:01 a.m., retail stores with a street entrance will be allowed to provide curbside pickup," he said. "They will have to respect public health measures and the same workplace safety guidelines, as well.”
Those measures include physical distancing, frequent hand washing, cleaning surfaces, installing physical barriers and offereing contactless payment. Ford said it is another step in the cautious reopening of Ontario’s economy.
Ontario is reporting 412 new cases of COVID-19 and 68 new deaths. That brings the province to a total of 18,722 cases, including 1,429 deaths and 13,222 resolved cases.
Ford's announcement came as Canada's chief public health officer acknowledged that the number of deaths as a result of COVID-19 in Canada has now exceeded the national projections for potentially 3,883 deaths by May 5. Just over 4,100 people have died in Canada to date.
Dr. Theresa Tam said the increased number of deaths is due to the tragic fact that those who were infected weeks ago are now coming to the end stages of COVID-19 and are passing away, most often those in long-term care facilities. But Tam points out that the epidemic still appears to be slowing down and that the doubling time for infections is now at about 20 days.
To date, over 970,000 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Canada. Tam said about 6% of those tests were positive.
The number of tests being carried out in Canada are of increased importance as provinces begin to slowly reopen their economies in tandem with increased COVID-19 surveillance.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.