Ontario Premier Doug Ford introduced new strict COVID-19 restrictions on Friday which include a ban on non-essential inter-provincial travel and new powers for law enforcement to stop and question people who are outside of their place of residence.
“I have never shied away from telling you the brutal honest truth, never shied away from tough decisions and today I am here to do just that. My friends, we are losing the battle between variants and vaccines,” said Ford.
According to Ford, his top priorities include limiting mobility as a means to reduce the impact of the COVID-19 surge.
The emergency declaration announced by Ontario earlier this month has also been extended along with the province’s stay-at-home order for at least another two weeks, for a total of six weeks.
As of Saturday, Ontario residents will now only be allowed to have outdoor gatherings with members of their households while outdoor amenities like golf courses, playgrounds, basketball courts and others will be restricted.
Big-box stores have had their indoor shopping capacity reduced to 25%, while places of worship are being allowed to hold indoor services but only for a maximum of ten people.
Starting on Monday, the province will also be instituting provincial checkpoints at all interprovincial crossings to prevent travel with the exception of people travelling for work, medical care and essential reasons.
According to Ford, the measures will be strongly enforced by law enforcement including special powers for police and bylaw officers to stop vehicles and question individuals on why they are outside of their place of residence.
“Police will have the authority to require any individual who is not in a place of residence to first provide their purpose for not being at home and provide their address,” said Ontario’s Solicitor General Sylvia Jones.
In its effort to ramp up vaccinations in COVID-19 hotspots, the Ontario government plans to increase the vaccine supplies directed to those communities by 25%.
The new rules are based on the province’s latest COVID-19 projections and models which indicate that hospitalization and ICU capacity are at the highest levels in the province since March 2020. Variants have also been detected at increasing rates while vaccinations are not reaching high-risk communities fast enough.