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Ontario expected to extend state of emergency until June

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Ontario is set to extend its state of emergency for the umpteenth time this week despite the fact that select lockdown restrictions have been loosened in recent days, including for all retail stores in the province, which are allowed to open for curbside pickup starting today for the first time in months.

Emergency orders were extended just a few days ago until at least May 19, but Premier Doug Ford is again asking the Ontario Legislature to maintain them until at least June 2. The final decision will be made by MPPs at a meeting at Queen’s Park tomorrow.

This means that most of the measures that have been in place since March 17 will continue, including the closure of non-essential businesses like bars and nightclubs, a moratorium on events and gatherings over five people and the issuance of fines to anyone violating the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.

The use of things like park amenities will remain prohibited, though parks are technically open and officials have encouraged the public to cautiously and carefully enjoy the outdoors.

The move seems a bit counterintuitive to some, given that the province is entering the preliminary phases of its framework for reopening the economy and that Ontario’s COVID-19 case counts have been generally on a downward trend, though perhaps not as consistently low as health officials had hoped.

As Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said in a press briefing earlier this month, “while [numbers are] coming down slowly, it’s having its ups and downs, and we’d like to see it progressing even quicker.”

“That means everyone needs to adhere to the physical distancing as we’re not yet disrupting community transmission adequately at this time, so we want to stick to the task,” he added.

Based on the most recent data available at the time of publication, there have been a total of 20,238 cases of the 2019 coronavirus in Ontario, 73 per cent of which (14,772) are considered to be resolved and 8.1 per cent of which (1,634) have resulted in fatalities.

As other provinces across the country begin easing back into a “new” normal, hundreds of LCBO stores are resuming pre-COVID-19 opening hours this week, while non-essential retailers like nurseries and hardware stores in Ontario have again opened their doors (and are busy). Provincial parks and conservation reserves will also open again this week for limited daytime use.

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