The Government of Ontario announced April 7 it is declaring a state of emergency and putting the province into a four-week stay-at-home order due to COVID-19.

The order goes into effect April 8 and will add additional restrictions to the shutdown measures from April 3. The order requires people to stay-at-home except for essential purposes such as work, outdoor exercise, accessing health care and going to a grocery store. Most non-essential retailers will also be limited to curbside pick-up, including big box stores, which can now only sell essential items.

The move comes as case counts continue to escalate and ICU occupancy rises. Between March 28 and April 5, Ontario has seen the number of COVID patients in intensive care by 25 per cent.

“The COVID-19 situation is at a critical stage and we must act quickly and decisively to stay ahead of these deadly new variants,” Premier Doug Ford said. “By imposing these strict new measures, we will keep people safe while allowing our vaccination program to reach more people, starting with our high-risk population and identified hot spots.”

Schools will remain open under the order. Education workers in hotspot areas will be able to get vaccines starting during the April break.

A limited number of retail stores can open for in-person retail by appointment subject to a 25 per cent capacity limit. These stores include safety supply, assistive devices, vehicle stores, optical and stores operated by a telecommunications providers. Outdoor garden services, plant nurseries and indoor greenhouses can also open at 25 per cent capacity.

The County of Haliburton announced its offices will be closed to the public until further notice. Staff can still be reached via telephone, email and virtual meetings.

The County said the public works department and paramedic services will operate at full capacity with safety measures in place.

“We thank everyone for their patience as we continue to follow public health guidelines to keep our community safe and healthy,” the County said.

The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit is asking people to remain vigilant. It has seen a spike of 94 new cases in the past seven days, mostly in Northumberland County. Haliburton is at seven active cases as of April 7.

“We may not be considered a hot spot for cases, but I am concerned by the increase in the number of cases we have been seeing locally,” medical officer of health Dr. Natalie Bocking said. “We are hearing stories of people gathering, not quarantining if they have been identified as a high-risk contact, and travelling for non-essential reasons. Unfortunately, these actions, coupled with the variants of concern that are now circulating, are leading to increased cases in our area.”

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