Ontario went into its first COVID-19 lockdown 3 years ago today

FILE- A person walks past a COVID-19 mural designed by artist Emily May Rose on a rainy day during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, April 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette


Three years ago today, Ontario went into its first lockdown at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

On March 17, 2020, Premier Doug Ford announced the declaration of an emergency under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

“We are facing an unprecedented time in our history,” Premier Ford said in a statement at the time. “This is a decision that was not made lightly. COVID-19 constitutes a danger of major proportions. We are taking this extraordinary measure because we must offer our full support and every power possible to help our health care sector fight the spread of COVID-19. The health and wellbeing of every Ontarian must be our number one priority.”

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The State of Emergency forced certain establishments to close immediately, including schools, restaurants and bars, indoor recreational programs, libraries, child care centres, theatres and concert venues. 

All organized public events over 50 people were also prohibited, including parades and services within places of worship.

The orders were expected to be in place for two weeks until March 31, 2020, but that was not the case. At the end of March, the government announced schools would remain closed until at least May, and that all major events in the city were cancelled. 

Stores started to slowly reopen in May, starting with curbside service first, but were forced to close once again in Sept. 2020 when the government imposed tougher lockdown restrictions amid a surge in COVID-19 cases. 

The province then went back into another lockdown after Christmas in Dec. 2020, followed by another State of Emergency issued in Jan. 2021. It wasn’t until over a year later in Mar. 2022 that the government started to slowly lift restrictions in a phased approach, as more Ontarians were getting vaccinated against the disease. 

This past weekend, the City of Toronto hosted a burning ceremony to mark three years since the pandemic was officially declared by the World Health Organization on Mar. 11, 2020. 



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