The cabinet of Doug Ford, Prime Minister of Ontario, has approved an order of the province to stay at home and will close non-essential grocery stores for everything except on the sidewalk, multiple sources told CBC News Tuesday night.
The move comes amid criticism that restrictions announced last week – what the government called “emergency” measures – are not enough to slow the spread of Ontario’s third wave of COVID-19.
Sources familiar with the cabinet decision said the order would remain at home from 12:01 p.m. ET Thursday and will last up to four weeks. CBC News did not name the sources because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the announcement.
The sources said that only shops and pharmacies were allowed to remain open for customers to shop inside. They said large specialty stores were limited to selling only groceries and pharmacy items for personal shopping.
Garden centers would also be allowed to stay open, according to the sources.
There is no indication that a provincial municipality closing schools is part of the government’s plan. In the stay-at-home order that was in Ontario in February, schools were explicitly excluded.
Earlier Tuesday, Ford defended the measures it had announced last week, but still indicated additional measures to come.
“I think we made massive moves last week by closing the entire province in principle,” Ford said during a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
“That was enormous, closing thousands and thousands of businesses, which I hate doing, but we will have further restrictions, very, very quickly.”
Pressure has grown in recent days on the Ford government to tighten measures.
The medical officers of three of Ontario’s largest public health units – Toronto, Peel Region and Ottawa – urged the province on Monday to stay at home, travel restrictions between regions and an emergency mandate for paid sick days
The top public health doctors in Toronto and Peel Region also ordered the closure of schools, sending nearly 600,000 students to online classes just days ahead of a rescheduled week-long spring break.
Associations representing doctors and nurses issued statements that more needed to be done to prevent further deaths and ensure that the health care system is not overwhelmed.
Ontario reported an average of more than 2,800 new cases of COVID-19 last week. There are 510 people with COVID-19 being treated in ICUs, which is the highest at any point in the pandemic. The previous peak was 420 patients, mid-January in the second wave.