On Tuesday afternoon, Premier Doug Ford took to the podium at Queen’s Park to officially declare an Ontario-wide state of emergency, issuing a stay at home order for Ontario residents and enacting a few other policies and restrictions.
The order will officially go into effect on Thursday at 12:01 am and will see Ontarians in non-essential work ordered to stay home and, if possible, work remotely for the next 28 days at least.
Residents will be urged only to leave their homes for essential reasons such as grocery shopping, medical appointments, outdoor exercise, or essential work. Those found violating stay-at-home orders or hosting gatherings will be subject to a fine.
But what does all of that change in Hamilton specifically? Well, aside from reduced shopping hours for non-essential retail stores, the closure of schools for in-person classes until at least February 10th, and more emphatic urgings for locals to stay home: really not that much from what we’ve already been doing.
Many people are confused by Ontario’s new State of Emergency rules. ie. What does a “stay at home” order mean when we can also congregate with any 5 people outside anywhere we want? And when other workplaces are closed, why is condo construction “essential” during a pandemic?
— Josh Matlow (@JoshMatlow) January 12, 2021
Ford has been the subject of consistent public criticism for his unwillingness to take more drastic and comprehensive action in issuing a full, true lockdown of the province; and though his announcement on Tuesday was strongly worded, it doesn’t reflect a meaningful effort to implement measures that truly have the interests of Ontarians in mind.
There’s also the contradictory messaging with the allowance for many non-essential businesses and retail stores to remain open for curbside pickup with opening hours no earlier than 7 am and closing hours no later than 8 pm, while ordering individuals to stay home and only go out for essential reasons such as groceries or medical needs.
The announcement has left many Ontarians more confused than assured, but regardless, the situation with COVID-19 is clear: staying home as much as possible, avoiding gatherings with others outside your household, regularly washing your hands, wearing a mask when you have to be in public, and practising social distancing remain as important as ever.
Hamilton’s Mayor Fred Eisenberger; Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, Medical Officer of Health; and Paul Johnson, Director of the City’s Emergency Operations Centre are expected to give a virtual update via YouTube at 2 pm this afternoon.
Read more about Ontario’s state of emergency here.