Ontario Premier Doug Ford is considering whether to declare a second provincial state of emergency, CTV News and CP24 have learned, amid a surge in COVID-19 cases that threatens to overwhelm the province’s health care system.
Multiple sources confirmed to CTV News and CP24 that invoking a state of emergency is under active consideration as the premier meets with his cabinet on Monday — giving the government the power to enact new measures beyond the current province-wide lockdown.
Arriving at Queen’s Park on Monday morning, Premier Doug Ford said that his cabinet will review new COVID-19 lockdown measures today and that they will be announced publicly tomorrow.
“We worked all weekend, right until late hours last night, we’ll be going to cabinet with recommendations tonight and we will make an announcement tomorrow,” he said.
Last week, Ford issued a dire warning to the province about the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases, saying that “extreme measures” will be needed to bring down the number of new infections.
Measures being considered by cabinet include lowering the limit for outdoor gatherings from 10 people to five; limiting permitted hours for shopping to between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m., limiting office spaces to either no workers or only essential workers and further restrictions on the construction industry, sources said.
The existing rules for health care services, dental offices, physiotherapy and chiropractors would remain the same, sources with direct knowledge of the recommendations say.
The decisions at cabinet have not been finalized.
However a province-wide curfew is no longer one of the measures under consideration.
The declaration of the state of emergency would give the premier the powers to unilaterally impose and enforce restrictions such as the further closure of businesses, the prohibition of events and gatherings and legally compel people to remain at home.
While the province ruled out a curfew, similar to the one imposed in Quebec, sources said the state of emergency declaration would give the province the power to create and introduce new enhanced public health measures designed to curb the second wave.
The measures would go beyond the second wave lockdown that was imposed on Dec. 26.
“It’s not going to be an easy few weeks,” said Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s Associate Medical Officer of Health. “What these trends demonstrate is that further actions are necessary.”
Yaffe pointed to workplaces, such as manufacturing and warehouses, as a source of infections as a result of staff taking breaks together without masks and carpooling to work.
Ontario first declared a state of emergency on Mar. 17, 2020 amid the first wave of COVID-19, which led to the immediate shut down of a wide swath of the province’s economy, the closure of schools and child care facilities and the restriction of public gatherings.
As the state of the pandemic improved during the summer, the state of emergency officially was ended in July, after the Ford government passed the Reopening Ontario Act, legislation that critics argued gave the government unprecedented powers.
Many of the measures included in the state of emergency — from the closure of indoor dining and non-essential businesses — were allowed to continue under the Reopening Ontario Act, with the caveat that the province could only extend or amend existing measures.
The orders under the Reopening Ontario Act have to be extended every 30 days, as opposed to ever 15 days under the state of emergency.