This article was updated on Monday, April 19 at 8:32 a.m. EST
Ontario is restricting interprovincial travel while placing new restrictions on recreational activities as COVID-19 cases continue to spike in the province.
Premier Doug Ford made the announcement on Friday (Apr. 16), saying that "there are few options left" as hospitalization rates and coronavirus infections continue to rise.
"I've never shied away from telling you the brutal, honest truth," Ford said at a press conference. "We're losing the battle between the variants and vaccines…We're on our heels.”
According to revised modelling, Ontario could see upwards of 10,000 cases per day by the end of May with the current measures in place and 100,000 vaccinations per day.
The province extended its stay-at-home order to a minimum of six weeks and originally said it would boost enforcement powers for police, saying police would have the authority to question pedestrians and drivers and issue tickets of up to $750.
However, following widespread backlash from citizens and police departments over the weekend, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said in a statement on Saturday that officers will not have the right to stop people and ask why they’re out or request their address.
Police, instead, will only be allowed to question people who are believed to be participating in an “organized public event or social gathering.”
Additionally, outdoor recreation amenities, such as golf courses, basketball courts, and soccer fields, closed April 17 (this list originally included playgrounds, but that decision, too, was reversed over the weekend).
Non-essential workplaces in construction are to close also.
And starting 12:01 a.m. Monday (Apr. 19), religious gatherings, weddings and funerals will be capped at 10 people.
Checkpoints at borders
Also starting on Monday, there will be checkpoints at provincial borders with Quebec and Manitoba (with exceptions for essential travel) to limit interprovincial travel, Ford said.
Those who don’t have a valid reason for entering Ontario “will be turned back.”
Valid reasons for crossing the provincial border, as outlined by the government, include work, health care services, transportation and delivery of goods and services or exercising Aboriginal or treaty rights.
Ford also called on the federal government to “immediately tighten up our international borders.”
“We’re currently facing the devastating consequences of COVID variants that entered Canada through borders at the start of this year,” Ford said.
Ford said “we need to do more” to stop variants from getting into Canada and "causing more havoc.”
That means further limiting air travel into Ontario, tightening up the Canada-U.S. border, and addressing issues with testing and quarantining when people fly into Canada, he said.
“Every week, over 36,000 people from all over the world come through Pearson International Airport,” said Ford. “These variants that are causing this inferno - they got in through our borders.”
Ford's call to toughen up border controls, a case the Premier has made many times before, comes after federal officials, in December, reported that just 1.8 per cent of all COVID-19 cases in Canada were connected to international travel.
Support from Trudeau
The update comes as other Canadian provinces grapple with third waves of COVID-19 and consider stricter measures.
Earlier this week, B.C. Premier John Horgan said he is considering restricting travel to and from the province as communities COVID-19 variants spread rapidly,.
B.C.’s provincial cabinet met on Wednesday (April 14) to discuss the possibility of implementing stricter travel rules for the province.
In an interview with CBC this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he’ll support an interprovincial travel ban, if one is required.
"Every step of the way, I've been supporting premiers and territorial leaders on what they need to do to keep people safe," Trudeau said.
Trudeau told CBC that provincial border control is ultimately in the hands of provincial governments.
"As we saw with the Atlantic bubble, as we saw with the Arctic territories, they make decisions around closing off the regions. That is something that we are supportive of,” Trudeau said.
Don't miss a single travel story: subscribe to PAX today!