"The variants of concern are spreading rapidly", said Premier Doug Ford.
"This is a new pandemic. We're fighting a new enemy".
All indoor and outdoor dining in restaurants, bars, and other food and drink establishments is prohibited. Takeout and delivery remain an option, however.
The capacity limit for weddings, funerals and other religious services indoors is 15 per cent, while outside can be the number of people that can maintain two metres physical distance. As of March 28, most health unit zones in Ontario were above the Red- Control level.
Ford said shutting down for the next four weeks is "our best chance to save lives" and to ensure a "good summer" with things reopening. "One thousand percent, it's the right decision", said Ford.
In fact, high-level provincial health advisors are saying the third wave of the pandemic is here and it is being driven by Variants of Concern, newer strains of the COVID-19 virus that have originated in the United Kingdom, in Brazil and in South Africa.
Christine Elliot, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, joined Ford - along with Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health, and Dr. Adalsteinn (Steini) Brown, Co-Chair of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table - and made it clear these shutdown measures are not the same as stay-at-home orders.
"We can not vaccinate quickly enough to break this third wave".
"I think we need to make those true ICU numbers, the true number of people who are in the ICU and standing with complications of COVID-19, as visible as possible".
Meanwhile, more than 150 intensive care unit doctors signed an open letter to the government on Thursday, calling for new, stricter, measures.
"The current measures and framework are not working to contain the spread of this virus", reads the letter in part. More than 260 of those 451 patients are breathing with the assistance of a ventilator.
"We are in a third wave of COVID-19".
The province could see up to 6,000 cases by the end of April if there is no stay-at-home order.
As well, the province hit a record high on Wednesday for the number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs. Our vaccine rollout is steadily increasing, and I encourage everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated.
"We're now fighting a new enemy, the new variants are far more unsafe than before".
Dr. Brown says short-term case projections will depend entirely on the public health measures implemented by the government and vaccination rates.
All 34 public-health regions went into the grey zone on December 26, followed by a provincewide stay-at-home order on January 14 that suspended the colour-coded system.
Ford defended his decision at the time, saying he was "very, very concerned", adding that "we're loosening it up, just a little bit".
This comes as the province has 433 people with COVID-19 in its ICUs, the highest ever throughout the pandemic.
"We are in the third wave of the pandemic".
Schools remain open because, the government says, they are crucial to students' mental health.
"It's still kind of scary going to work because the virus is still there, but since we're essential, we still have to open", Ordanza said.
She said customers have resumed that habit since the order lifted in Peel Region less than a month ago - sometimes without masks on - and she hopes this shutdown will send the message that it's time to stop.
Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy.
Health officials reported 3,089 new COVID-19 on Friday and 3,009 on Saturday.
The seven-day rolling average of new cases now stands at 2,552, compared to 1,944 seven days ago.