Canada's most populous province, Ontario, will enter a limited lockdown for 28 days as COVID-19 cases and hospitalisations rise and more dangerous variants take hold.
The edict will fall short of enacting a stay-at-home order, which new government modeling released earlier on Thursday suggested would be necessary to avoid a doubling to 6000 new COVID-19 cases a day by late April.
Ontario's third lockdown since the pandemic began will shutter all indoor and outdoor dining, although retailers will remain open with capacity limits, Premier Doug Ford said.
He called the measures "pulling the emergency brake" on the entire province.
"We're now fighting a new enemy," Ford said.
"The new variants are far more dangerous than before. They spread faster and they do more harm than the virus we were fighting last year ... That means we need to take action now."
The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses panned the measures, calling them"unconscionable" for the government to "continue to rely almost exclusively on blanket lockdowns" for controlling cases.
It said the new measures were making small businesses bear the brunt of "the Ontario government's lack of planning or foresight".
Ford said because the measures would apply to the entire province, people would not be able to move between health regions and avoid restrictions.
Schools would remain open, Ontario's education minister said on Twitter, drawing criticism from teachers' unions.
Not closing schools "is irresponsible at best and dangerously negligent at worst", Elementary Teachers' Federation president Sam Hammond said.
Earlier on Thursday, modeling released by an expert panel advising government predicted new COVID-19 cases would double unless a stay at home order was imposed.
It suggested a two- or four-week stay at home order from April 5 could reverse the rise in new infections.
That came as more than 150 critical care doctors published a letter urging Ontario to act.
"We are seeing younger patients on ventilators - many are parents of school-aged children," the letter said.
"We are seeing entire families end up in our ICUs. We are caring for people who have contracted COVID-19 at work, or who have followed all the rules and only gone out for groceries."
As new, more contagious and deadly coronavirus variants spread across the province, the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units has reached 464, higher than at the peak of the last wave.