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Ontario issuing stay-at-home order, declares 3rd state of emergency amid COVID-19 pandemic

The Ontario government has declared the province’s third state of emergency amid the COVID-19 pandemic and is issuing a provincewide stay-at-home order effective Thursday at 12:01 a.m.

The government is also ordering closure of most non-essential retail businesses, limiting them to curbside pickup.

Big-box stores will be restricted to selling essential items only.

Schools and child-care will remain open for in-person operations other than in areas where local medical officers have ordered their closure.

The government said education workers who provide direct daily support to students with special needs across the province and education workers in high-risk neighbourhoods in Toronto and Peel will be eligible for vaccination during the April break next week.

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“Case rates, hospitalizations, and ICU occupancy are increasing rapidly, threatening to overwhelm the health care system,” the government said in a news release.

Global News first reported Tuesday night that the government was considering imposing the stay-at-home order.

The new restrictions are in addition to measures that were put in place several days ago as part of a “provincewide shutdown.”

The shutdown, which took effect Saturday, meant, among other things, that in-person dining, personal care services, and gyms had to close. Non-essential in-person retail was still allowed to remain open with capacity restrictions, however, and the government had opted against issuing a stay-at-home order.

Click to play video: Phase 2 of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout begins with a focus on hot spots

But on Tuesday, Ford hinted at the possibility of more restrictions and expressed frustration about seeing scenes of a packed Yorkdale Mall parking lot over the long weekend.

Ontario has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in recent weeks as the province continues to be impacted by a third wave of the virus, largely driven by more contagious variants. On Wednesday, 3,215 cases were reported, marking the largest single-day increase since mid-January.

Seventeen additional deaths were also reported, bringing the provincial death toll to 7,475. The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units throughout the province also remains among all-time highs, at 504.

More to come.

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