COVID-19 Waterloo Region: Province introduces new restrictions, extends stay-at-home order to slow spread

New restrictions to help slow the spread of COVID-19 will come into effect in Waterloo Region and across Ontario this weekend.

Premier Doug Ford made the announcement at a press conference on Friday afternoon.

The updated measures include further restrictions on religious services, outdoor gatherings, and outdoor activities.

The province will also be extending the current stay-at-home order for an additional two weeks.

These are the new measures announced by the province on Friday:

  • Stay-at-home order remains in effect until at least May 20
  • Police now have authority to stop people to ask why they've left their home
  • Big box stores and essential retailers can operate at 25 per cent capacity
  • Non-essential retail stores remain closed
  • Non-essential construction projects must shut down
  • Outdoor recreation amenities like golf courses, playgrounds, basketball courts closing as of Saturday
  • No outdoor gatherings with people outside of your household
  • Checkpoints at interprovincial borders with Quebec and Manitoba
  • Gatherings at places of worship capped at 10 people starting Monday

People travelling into the province for reasons other than work, medical care, transporting goods or exercising Indigenous treaty rights will be turned back at the border.

Outdoor exercise like walking, running and bicycling is still permitted.

In a news release on Friday evening, Waterloo regional police said they will "review the new regulations to determine the most appropriate enforcement response for citizens of Waterloo Region."

"However, at this time, our current enforcement response will remain the same – with a focus on the four Es – Engage (with the individual), Explain (why we are there), Educate (on the rules and regulations), and Enforce (as a last resort)," the release said in part. "We will not be conducting random vehicle or individual stops. As before, our initiatives will be both complaint driven or proactive, with the goal of gaining compliance. Those that refuse to comply will receive the appropriate penalty."

Ontario set a record for new COVID-19 cases for a second straight day on Friday, reporting 4,812 more.

Waterloo Region added 82 cases to its total on Friday.

Speaking at the region's COVID-19 briefing on Friday morning, Region of Waterloo Medical Officer of Health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang said she fully supported more stringent measures in Ontario.

"Our local situation is concerning as our rates have rapidly increased as well," Dr. Wang said.

She also called the situation in Ontario "dire."

The region held a Board of Health meeting on Friday evening to address the new measures.

At that meeting, Dr. Wang again called on people to stay home as much as possible to slow the spread of the disease.

"We really need our residents to live by the public health measures as best as they can, because it is the best chance that we have," she said.

Dr. Wang said the province needs to get back to measures from last spring at the start of the pandemic, when there were very few people out on the streets.

Ontario also released new modelling numbers on Friday, predicting case counts will remain high in the province this summer unless the current stay-at-home order remains in effect for at least six weeks.

With files from CTVNewsToronto.ca