The Ontario government has announced a stay-at-home order and updated restrictions, because new COVID-19 modelling from January 12, 2021 showed that the province’s healthcare system is close to being overwhelmed.

The stay-at-home order is effective Thursday, January 14 at 12:01 a.m. It requires everyone to remain at home with exceptions only for essential purposes, such as groceries, picking up medications, health care, exercise or essential work.

Premier Doug Ford said during the announcement, “The latest modelling data shows that Ontario is in a crisis and, with the current trends, our hospital ICUs will be overwhelmed in a few short weeks with unthinkable consequences.”

“That’s why we are taking urgent and decisive action, which includes declaring a provincial emergency and imposing a stay-at-home-order. We need people to only go out only for essential trips to pick up groceries or go to medical appointments. By doing the right thing and staying home, you can stay safe and save lives,” he added.

Here are the measures announced by the province:

  • Organized outdoor public gatherings as well as social gatherings are now restricted to a limit of five people with only limited exceptions. 
  • People are required to wear a mask or other face covering in the indoor areas of businesses or organizations that are open. Further, wearing a mask or face covering is now recommended outdoors when you can’t physically distance more than two metres.
  • All non-essential retail stores, including hardware stores, alcohol retailers, and those offering curbside pickup or delivery, must open no earlier than 7 a.m. and close no later than 8 p.m.
  • The restricted hours of operation do not apply to stores that primarily sell food, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores, and restaurants for takeout or delivery.
  • Non-essential construction is further restricted, including below-grade construction, exempting survey.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said during the same announcement, “Community transmission is widespread. It’s in our hospitals, it’s in our long-term care homes, and it’s in our workplaces.”

In addition to the stated measures, the schools in these public health units will remain in virtual learning until at least February 10:

  • Peel Region
  • Toronto
  • York
  • Hamilton
  • Windsor-Essex

Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table said during the briefing, “We’re at a dangerous point.”

This is because current models released on Tuesday, January 12, indicate that if Ontarians don’t significantly reduce contact with others outside of their households during the pandemic, the Ontario health system will become overwhelmed.

The revised modelling suggests that despite December restrictions people are still getting together and moving between groups, a behaviour that did not decrease even with the tighter rules in place.

Brown said that data shows most Ontarians are trying to limit the spread of the virus by following the advice of health officials, but warned that case numbers will not go down until more residents heed that advice.

Brown also said that at this time around 25 per cent of Ontario hospitals have no remaining ICU capacity left. Another 25 per cent are down to one or two available beds. He noted that these hospitals are spread across the province, adding, “This is no longer an issue of one or two regions.”

The Ontario COVID-19 situation by the numbers

The new projections how there could be around 500 COVID-19 patients in the ICU as soon as this week, and if things remain as they are, more than 1,000 by February.

Total admissions to hospitals of patients with COVID-19 have risen a steep 72.2 per cent in the last four weeks. 

As part of the same briefing, the province reported another 2,903 cases of COVID-19 and 41 more COVID deaths. According to provincial data, 545 of the new cases were in Peel Region.

There are now 30,141 confirmed, active cases of COVID-19 across the province and Ontario’s COVID-19 death has reached 5,053.

As of this writing, a total of 133,553 vaccination shots have been administered in Ontario.