Ontario extends stay at home order to June 2, maintains strict public health measures
By Shawn Jeffords
TORONTO — Ontario is extending its stay-at-home order until June 2 to bring down high rates of COVID-19, a move Premier Doug Ford said was necessary to bring infection cases down and “save the summer.”
That means thousands of businesses and public schools will remain closed until the order is lifted. Outdoor recreational facilities will also remain closed, a decision public health experts have said is misguided and has consequences for people’s physical and mental health.
The government’s science advisers have said banning outdoor activities will not control COVID-19 and disproportionately harm children and those who don’t have access to their own green space.
Ford acknowledged the criticism but said that measure would stay in place to limit mobility and other behaviour that could contribute to spread of the virus.
“They pick up another buddy, two or three go out, go golfing, there’s nothing wrong with golfing,” he said. “The problem is, then after golf they go back, they have some pops. That’s the problem.”
Ford said the goal was to vaccinate as many people as possible against COVID-19 in the next few weeks.
“These are precious weeks,” he said. “By June 2, so long as we stay the course, we will be able to reopen outdoor recreation. And by then, we will provide more details on our plan to carefully and safely begin to reopen.”
The premier blamed Ottawa for the third wave of the pandemic, suggesting a significant number of cases of the COVID-19 variants had entered Ontario through its land, air and water borders a claim that has been disputed by experts.
“The reality is, existing border measures have failed to keep the contagious variants out of Canada,” Ford said. “This brutal third wave is fuelled almost entirely by variants that pass too easily through our borders.”
Ontario declared a state of emergency and invoked the stay-at-home order in early April amid skyrocketing cases.
It initially gave police sweeping new powers to enforce the order but rolled those back amid intense backlash.
Under the order, stores providing essential goods remain open but are only permitted to sell grocery and pharmacy items. Non-essential retailers are limited to curbside pickup and delivery. Restaurants and gyms are closed for in-person service.
Ford also stressed that while he knows people are eager for some “sense of normalcy,” COVID-19 variants of concern remain a risk to the province.
He cited the threat posed by variants for the decision to keep schools closed to in-person learning for now.
“We need public health doctors, teachers and our labour partners to agree on the best path forward,” he said. “We simply don’t have that right now.”
The government also announced Thursday that it would start administering the Pfizer vaccine to children aged 12 to 17 starting the week of May 31.
The province’s top doctor has said he would like to see “well below” 1,000 daily cases before Ontario lifts the stay-at-home order.
Ontario reported 2,759 new COVID-19 cases today, with 31 more deaths from the virus. There are 1,632 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 across the province, including 776 in intensive care.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 13, 2021.
News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2021.