The surging COVID-19 caseload has Ontario “on its heels,” prompting the urgent need for tougher measures to regain control of the deteriorating situation.
And with that dire warning Premier Doug Ford announced a raft of new restrictions Friday that went into effect first thing Saturday morning.
The province’s stay-at-home order is being extended an extra two weeks, outdoor gatherings are now restricted to members of the same household — though people who live alone can join another household — and all recreational facilities such as sports fields, playgrounds and golf courses are now closed.
Essential retailers must lower capacity limits to 25 per cent, indoor religious services are limited to 10 people, and non-essential construction has to shut down.
To enforce the measures, police and bylaw officers can now stop motorists and pedestrians to ask them where they live and why they’re not at home.
That new provision drew immediate condemnation from civil liberties activists who warned it could result in a rash of racial profiling.
The Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police said officers will do their part to enforce stay-at-home orders and new enforcement measures, however, a number of police forces were quick to state that they would not be conducting random vehicle or individual stops.
The new measures followed on the heels of a warning from Ontario’s science advisers that the province’s COVID-19 infections could soar past 15,000 cases per day by June without tougher restrictions.
Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of Ontario’s science advisory panel, said hospitals were “bursting at the seams” and care was already being compromised.
Brown added that along with tougher restrictions, vaccinations also had to ramp up to regain some control of the pandemic.
The province’s opposition New Democrats have already dismissed the new restrictions as not going far enough to flatten the COVID curve.