"The situation is extremely serious".
"We're going to have further restrictions moving forward, very very quickly. And right now, above all else, our plan is to get needles into arms and protect our hospitals".
Ontario on Thursday will begin a four-week stay-at-home order and close in-store shopping for non-essential retailers, Premier Doug Ford said on Wednesday, as the Canadian province battles a surge of COVID-19 cases.
Last Thursday, the government pushed the emergency brake to begin a province-wide shutdown Saturday with restrictions similar to the previous Grey-Lockdown zones.
In retail, large box stores will now only be able to sell essential items, which Ford says includes food, cleaning supplies, personal care items and medicine.
Stores that sell safety supply equipment, assistive devices, eyeglasses, cellphones, vehicle rentals, mechanics and auto dealerships can only operate at a 25% capacity limit, and by-appointment between the same hours as non-essential businesses.
Retail stores operated by a telecommunications provider or service, which may only permit members of the public to enter the premises to purchase a cellphone or for repairs or technical support.
Grocery stores and pharmacies will be permitted to remain open, as will garden centres, according to a CBC report.
"Keeping schools and child care open is critical to the mental health and well-being of Ontario children and youth".
Ford also announced special education workers across the province and teachers in hotspot areas in Toronto and Peel will be vaccinated starting next week. Vaccinations will start during the April break with priority neighborhoods in Toronto and Peel, then rolling out to priority neighborhoods in other hot spot regions, including York, Ottawa, Hamilton, Halton and Durham.
Ontario has seen almost 15,000 new cases of COVID-19 in the past five days - and for the first time since the pandemic began, more than 500 people in intensive care units.
This initiative will be expanded to additional "hot spot" regions based on established patterns of transmission, severe illness, and mortality. The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the province has increased by 28.2 per cent between the period of March 28 and April 5, 2021.