In response to rapidly increasing COVID-19 numbers, the provincial government has declared another state of emergency, effective immediately, and has introduced a package of new enforcement measures to crack down on people moving around too much.
The province is also issuing a stay-at-home order, effective Thursday.
Everyone is required stay home except for essential reasons such as going for groceries, visiting the pharmacy, getting medical treatment or for essential work.
All businesses are ordered to make sure any employee who can work from home, does work from home.
“The latest modelling data shows that Ontario is in a crisis and, with the current trends, our hospital ICUs will be overwhelmed in a few short weeks with unthinkable consequences,” said Premier Doug Ford. “That’s why we are taking urgent and decisive action, which includes declaring a provincial emergency and imposing a stay-at-home-order. We need people to only go out only for essential trips to pick up groceries or go to medical appointments. By doing the right thing and staying home, you can stay safe and save lives.”
Here are some of the new restrictions introduced on Tuesday:
- Outdoor organized public gatherings and social gatherings are further restricted to a limit of five people with limited exceptions.
- Individuals are required to wear a mask or face covering in the indoor areas of businesses or organizations that are open. Wearing a mask or face covering is now recommended outdoors when you can’t physically distance more than two metres.
- All non-essential retail stores, including hardware stores, alcohol retailers, and those offering curbside pickup or delivery, must open no earlier than 7 a.m. and close no later than 8 p.m. The restricted hours of operation do not apply to stores that primarily sell food, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores, and restaurants for takeout or delivery.
- Non-essential construction is further restricted, including below-grade construction, exempting survey.
New Enforcement Measures
The province is allowing police to write tickets for people who don’t comply with the stay-at-home order, temporarily close premises and disperse individuals who are gathering, regardless of whether or not the premises is closed. These powers will be extended to all enforcement and provincial offences officers, including the Ontario Provincial Police, local police forces, bylaw officers, and provincial workplace inspectors.
Schools and Child Care Centres
Schools in the following public health units will not return to in-person instruction until at least February 10:
- Peel Region
For schools in every other areas, the Chief Medical Officer of Health will advise the Ministry of Education on which public health units will be allowed to resume in-person instruction, based on the most up-to-date data and modelling by January 20.
Before- and after-school programs can be offered when in-person instruction resumes. Schools in Northern Ontario will remain open.
When in-person learning returns, masks will be required outdoors. Masks will also be a requirement for students in Grade 1 to 3.
Targeted testing in schools will also be expanded in the coming weeks.
Workplace inspections will be ramped up across the province. Ford specifically mentioned inspections at big box stores on Tuesday.
Other targeted inspections will be carried out at manufacturing businesses, warehouses, distribution centres, food processing operations, construction projects and publicly accessible workplaces deemed essential, such as grocery stores.