Ontario will step up enforcement powers for police and extend its stay-at-home order to a minimum of six weeks in a bid to stem the exponential rise in COVID-19 cases, but won’t institute paid sick days — despite modelling showing that cases will remain high through the summer without additional support for essential workers.
Speaking at a news conference that was twice delayed-on Friday, Premier Doug Ford also announced that non-essential construction will be shut down and outdoor amenities like golf and playgrounds will be restricted.
Outdoor gatherings with people outside a person’s household will be prohibited, effective 12:01 a.m. Saturday.
Effective 12:01 a.m. Monday, capacity at religious gatherings, weddings and funerals will be limited to 10 people. Also beginning Monday, Ford said, there will be checkpoints at provincial borders with Quebec and Manitoba with exceptions for essential travel.
Police will also have the authority to ask anyone outside their residence to indicate their purpose for leaving home and provide their address. That includes stopping vehicles and potentially issuing tickets of approximately $750.
Inspectors will also visit law offices, accounting firms and other such locations to check that only essential workers are in the building.
“I’ve never shied away from telling you the brutal, honest truth,” Ford said. “We’re losing the battle between the variants and vaccines … We’re on our heels.”
Ford, along with Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, told reporters the stricter measures are necessary because of a lack of vaccine supply. However, health experts have repeatedly said vaccines alone cannot stop the surge of the virus.
“Without stronger system-level measures and immediate support for essential workers and high-risk communities, high case rates will persist through the summer,” Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table said Friday.
The province did say it will boost vaccine supply by 25 per cent in hot spots, but did not provide details on when that boost might take place.
Ford and his cabinet met again Friday morning to consider further COVID-19 restrictions to combat a worsening third wave that is pushing the province’s health-care system to the breaking point.
The meeting came ahead of the scheduled briefing from the province’s COVID-19 science advisory table, which contained stark new forecasts for the weeks ahead.
Revised modelling suggests Ontario could see more than 10,000 cases per day by the end of May with the current measures in place and 100,000 vaccinations per day.
A six-week stay-at-home order with an average of 100,000 vaccinations per day “is the only way to flatten the curve,” the modelling shows.
It goes on like that for a while.