Ontario, Canada's most populous province, announced Monday it will go into lockdown on Dec. 26 to curb the fast spread of COVID-19.
Ontario, with a population of 14.6 million, is the first province in Canada to announce to new lockdown in the COVID-19 second wave.
The lockdown will begin at 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 26 and remain in place until at least Jan. 23, 2021 in the 27 public health units that comprise southern Ontario.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford told a press conference that the virus is spreading rapidly from areas with a high number of cases to areas with fewer cases, and the province needs to preserve capacity in its healthcare system.
"This difficult action is without a doubt necessary to save lives and prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed in the coming weeks," he said. "Make no mistake, thousands of lives are at stake right now."
The lockdown was originally set to begin on Dec. 24 but was pushed back two days by the provincial government on Monday.
The province-wide lockdown will look similar to the shutdown back in March, with only essential businesses being allowed to remain open.
During the lockdown, no indoor public events or social gatherings will be allowed, except with members of the same household.
While the shutdown will begin a day after Christmas, Ford continued urging Ontarians not to gather for the holidays.
"If we fail to take action now, the consequences will be catastrophic," Ford said. "We need to do everything in our power to protect our hospitals and our most vulnerable."
Ford said people should only leave home for essential trips such as work or groceries, however, the lockdown doesn't include curfews or travel restrictions.
As of Monday evening, Canada reported a total of 515,314 cases of the COVID-19 and 14,331 deaths.
Ontario reported 2,123 new cases on Monday, bringing the provincial total to 158,053. The 17 additional deaths brought the total number of COVID-19-related fatalities since the beginning of the pandemic to 4,167.