Published Tuesday, January 12, 2021 5:49AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 12, 2021 5:31PM EST
Premier Doug Ford made the announcement from Queen’s Park this afternoon and announced the additional measures to help curb transmission of the deadly disease.
As of Thursday, at 12:01 a.m., the government is issuing a stay-at-home order for at least 28 days requiring everyone to remain at home with exceptions for essential purposes.
“Cases and deaths are the highest since the start of the pandemic and community spread continues to escalate. I’m not blaming anyone, only one thing is truly at fault and that’s the virus,” he added.
The order is aimed at reducing people's mobility and reducing the number of daily contacts people have with those outside their immediate household.
The state of emergency gives the government the power to enact new measures beyond those included in the provincewide lockdown, which began on Dec. 26, 2020.
An emergency order allows the government to close more businesses, prohibit events and gatherings and order people to stay home.
Under the order, provincial and local enforcement are permitted to issue tickets to individuals who do not comply with the stay-at-home order, or who do not wear masks indoors and to companies that do not enforce those health and safety protocols.
All enforcement personnel also have the authority to temporarily close a premise and disperse people who are in contravention of an order.
“One of the big changes with the stay-at-home order is actually allowing and empowering provincial offences officers, most commonly bylaw enforcement officers, to also issue tickets and to disperse crowds of larger than five, if they're not in the same household,” Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said at the news conference.
This is the second emergency order issued in the province since the pandemic began last March. The last one expired on July 24, though many of the 47 emergency orders issued under it remain in effect.
Ford also announced that retailers will be subject to shorter operating hours and that outdoor gathering sizes will be reduced from 10 to five people, with limited exceptions.
Those who live alone are still allowed to spend time with another household but the government said that they prefer that people stay home as much as possible.
The government is also advising non-essential workers who are currently working at their places of employment to work from home except in circumstances “where the nature of their work requires them to be on-site at the workplace."
As for non-essential retail stores, including hardware, alcohol and big box retailers, they will be required to close from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. in an effort to discourage late-night shopping.
These stores will be permitted to have all their aisles open, despite some critics suggesting aisles with non-essential items should be blocked off as it’s an unfair advantage to small businesses who have been forced to close to customers.
Ford said big box stores must follow the latest protocols or else he’ll “come down on them like an 800-pound gorilla.”
“If they aren't following the protocols and following the guidelines, if they don't have 50 per cent, only in the stores, there's going to be consequences for them," he said.