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DAN CEARNS, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, for The Standard
DURHAM/KAWARTHA LAKES: The Ontario government has made some adjustments to COVID-19 regulations to try to protect the province from the virus. On Friday, April 16th, provincial government officials announced all “non-essential workplaces in the construction sector” will be closed, all retail stores which are currently allowed to have in store shopping will be limited to allowing 25 percent capacity inside, and outdoor social gatherings and events will be prohibited, “except for with members of the same household, or one other person from outside that household who lives alone, or a caregiver for any member of the household.” Weddings, funerals and other religious services will be limited to 10 people indoors or outdoors, but receptions are prohibited. The stay at home order was extended for an additional two weeks as well. This means the stay at home order won’t expire until at least May 20th.
“In order to limit the transmission of the variants of concern, the government is also restricting travel into Ontario from the provinces of Manitoba and Quebec with the exception of purposes such as work, health care services, transportation and delivery of goods and services or exercising Aboriginal or treaty rights,” a provincial press release added.
Premier Doug Ford, at a press conference, explained why the province is taking these additional steps.
“We’re losing the battle between the variants and vaccines. The pace of our vaccine supply has not kept up with the spread of the [COVID-19] variants.
We are on our heels. But, if we dig in [and] remain steadfast, we can turn this around,” Premier Ford said.
The government had announced, that day, they were going to give police forces the power to “stop vehicles to inquire about an individual’s reasons for leaving their home” and to question people who are outside their home about why they were not at their residence.
However, this measure led to a lot of public outcry and resistance from police chiefs in Ontario, such as in Durham.
“Yesterday, the Ontario government announced new measures that are intended to limit the spread of COVID-19. This included enhanced enforcement measures for police officers. However, DRPS officers will not be conducting random vehicle or pedestrian stops in our community under this new legislation,” read a statement from Durham Regional Police.
“We will continue to engage our community, educate when appropriate and enforce when necessary any breaches of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA) or the Reopening Ontario Act (ROA).”
A day after these regulations were announced, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones released a statement saying the government was repealing the ability for police to ask you why you are out, or to do random vehicle stops to check why people are out. However, she left the door open for police enforcement of suspected gathering participants.
“If a police officer or other provincial offences officer has reason to suspect that you are participating in an organized public event or social gathering, they may require you to provide information to ensure you are complying with restrictions,” the Solicitor General’s statement read.