Ford announces four-week 'emergency-brake shutdown' of Ontario

An essential worker gathers shopping carts in a grocery store parking lot in Toronto on Wednesday

An essential worker gathers shopping carts in a grocery store parking lot in Toronto on Wednesday

The processes we now have in place to protect staff and members of the public are in compliance with the new measures announced by the Province, and will ensure ongoing business continuity as we continue to deliver the essential municipal services on which our community relies. "They spread faster and they do more harm than the virus we were fighting past year".

CBC says lockdown to take effect Saturday.

Ontario says 84,060 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered since Wednesday's update.

The premier said he was loath to take the step, but called it necessary to control the spread of more contagious variants of COVID-19 that are fuelling the pandemic's third wave despite an accelerating vaccine rollout. "That is our best protection against this deadly virus".

With 62,290 tests processed in the last 24 hours, the province says its COVID-19 positivity rate remains at 4.8 per cent.

Prohibiting indoor organized public events and social gatherings and limiting the capacity for outdoor organized public events or social gatherings to a five-person maximum, except for gatherings with members of the same household (the people you live with) or gatherings of members of one household and one other person from another household who lives alone.

The rules are slightly more lax for religious, wedding and funeral services in Ontario, however, with indoor events permitted to host up to 15 per cent of a room's capacity. Education Minister Stephen Lecce said that the provincial government is fully committed to keeping schools open and that students will return to "elevated" infection prevention and control measures.

Restaurants can only offer delivery and take-out services in the shutdown zone and no indoor dining will be allowed. Essential retail stores will be able to operate at 50% capacity, big box stores and other retailers at 25%.

He said the province is pulling the emergency brake to put all 34 health unit regions in the province into shutdown, which is stricter than the grey-lockdown zone measures.

Personal care services such as hair salons are closed.

While it remains unclear what announcement Ontarians are waiting for, many are predicting a lockdown is likely in order, but it's unsure if it will begin before or after Easter weekend. "I know pulling the emergency brake will be hard on many people across the province, but we must try and prevent more people from getting infected and overwhelming our hospitals".

Thursday's lockdown will require the closure of hair salons, gyms, and indoor dining in regions not now under such restrictions.

On Thursday, officials reported more than 2,500 new cases of COVID-19, a almost 14% increase in hospitalizations and ICU admissions increasing dramatically.

Hot spots like Toronto have already largely been on lock down since November but patios recently opened in the city, the country's largest city.

The shutdown comes as Ontario's COVID-19 Science Table released new modelling data showing that without a new order, the province will be unable to curb the spread of COVID-19 variants.

Province wide lockdown to begin Saturday ONTARIO