Premier Doug Ford announced the tougher measures at a press conference Thursday at Queen’s Park, and said the measures would begin on Saturday, April 3.
“This decision was not taken lightly,” he said. “I know how these restrictions continue to weigh on people’s mental health and well-being.”
Until now, the province has been divided by health region, with each zone assigned a color and a corresponding set of rules depending on the risk of COVID-19.
Toronto and Peel have been on lockdown since November 2020, and now the entire province will have similar restrictions.
Across Ontario, eating inside and on restaurant terraces must stop, fitness centers and gymnasiums must close, personal care businesses must close, day camps must send children home and ski slopes and golf courses must close.
The outdoor gathering limit is also lowered to five out of every 10 people. Indoor gatherings with anyone outside their home are strictly prohibited.
Retail stores will still be allowed to open at a maximum of 25% of their usual capacity, and grocery stores will be limited to 50% of their usual capacity.
Schools will remain open and religious ceremonies can continue at 15% of usual capacity. Weddings and funeral ceremonies can also take place with restrictions, but receptions are prohibited.
Ontario has used its “emergency brake” provisions to fight quickly, as the latest epidemiological modeling released Thursday predicts the province could have seen 6,000 new cases of COVID-19 per day had it not acted.
The province’s COVID-19 ICU admissions climbed to a record 421 on Wednesday, and are expected to hit 650 in a few weeks, the province’s projections show.
Public health experts say the current third wave of infection is driven by worrying variants and threatens the ability of hospitals to care for all patients.
COVID-19 modeling has called for stay-at-home orders to control the rise in infections, but those measures fall short.
“We are not going to produce an order at home because we last saw it had a huge detrimental effect on children and adults,” said Health Minister Christine Elliott. “Especially with the warm weather coming, we want people to get out there and enjoy the outdoors, as long as they follow safety precautions.
Ford said earlier this week that the increase in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations concerned him and that he would not hesitate to lock things down again.
Toronto’s Dr Eileen of Villa on Wednesday called for province-wide restrictions, saying the severity of the problem extends beyond the city’s borders.
“The gravity of the circumstances demands commensurate actions,” she said.
Ontario reported 2,557 new COVID-19 infections on Thursday. There are a total of 352,460 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ontario reported to date.
This story is developing