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COVID-19 Update: The Government of Ontario Announces a Framework to Re-Open the Economy

On April 27, 2020, Premier Doug Ford announced Ontario’s framework for reopening the economy. The framework introduces a three-stage process to be followed in the coming weeks and months. A copy of Ontario’s framework is available here and the corresponding press release is available here.

While there are no specific dates included in Ontario’s framework for when each stage will occur, the reopening of Ontario is intended to be evidence-informed and will depend on a number of factors, including:

  1. Virus spread and containment:
    • Consistent two-to-four week drop in new daily COVID-19 cases;
    • Decrease in cases not traced to a source; and
    • Decrease in new hospitalizations;
  2. Health system capacity:
    • Sufficient acute and critical care capacity to respond to potential resurgence; and
    • Ongoing availability of PPE;
  3. Public health system capacity:
    • Approximately 90% of new COVID-19 contacts being reached by local public health officials within one day; and
  4. Incidence tracking capacity:
    • Ongoing testing of suspected COVID-19 cases, especially in vulnerable populations; and
    • New and other means of testing and contact tracing.

The following is a summary of Ontario’s plan as of April 27, 2020. We will continue to monitor updates on the reopening of the economy, including the timing of such measures, and will provide additional information as it becomes available.

Phase One: “Protect and Support”

The first of the three phases is currently underway. This phase focuses on protecting the health and well-being of individuals and families, as well as supporting frontline health-care workers, essential workers and businesses. It also focuses on emergency orders put in place that shutdown non-essential workplaces, outdoor amenities at parks, recreational areas and public places, as well as put restrictions on social gatherings. The Government of Ontario has also stated that remote work arrangement should continue where feasible.

Our Emergency Measures Tracker, found here, provides updated information on these and other measures in place across Canada.

Phase Two: “Restart”

This phase is broken down into three stages in order to provide a “careful approach” to loosening emergency measures and reopening Ontario’s economy. During this phase, public health and workplace safety will remain the top priority, while balancing the needs of people and businesses.

After each two-to-four-week stage, the Chief Medical Officer of Health may advise the Government to:

  • reapply or tighten certain public health measures in response to a surge in cases or outbreaks;
  • maintain status quo and continue close monitoring of impacts; or
  • progress to the next two-to-four-week stage.

Stage One: During this phase, the Government will consider allowing:

  • the re-opening of businesses that can “immediately meet or modify operations to meet public health guidance and occupational health and safety requirements, for example those that can conduct curbside pickup or delivery;
  • the re-opening of some outdoor spaces, such as parks;
  • greater number of individuals to attend some events, such as funerals; and
  • hospitals to re-offer some non-urgent surgeries and other health-care services.

Stage Two: If the initial loosening of public health measures is successful, the Government will proceed to the second stage where it will consider opening more workplaces based on risk assessment. This may include service industries, offices and retail. They may also permit the opening of additional outdoor spaces as well as larger public gatherings.

Stage Three: In the third stage, the Government will consider the reopening of all workplaces and the further loosening of restrictions on large gatherings (although concerts and sporting events will continue to be restricted for the foreseeable future).

As part of this staged process, the Government has noted that its Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee, along with MPPs, will engage in consultations with business associations, chambers of commerce, municipalities, the post-secondary sector, corporate leaders, small business owners, community and social service providers, Indigenous partners, Franco-Ontarians, entrepreneurs and others to evaluate the impact of COVID-19 and to develop the staged progression of re-opening.

Finally, the Government has clearly stated its priority to ensure the health and safety of workers. To that end, they have noted their intention to provide guidelines to employers on how to safely open and protect their employees and customers. Once those guidelines are available, we will provide a further update. They also noted the Government’s commitment to enforcement of health and safety obligations. For more on that, see our recent blog here.

Phase Three: “Recover”

Finally, during phase three, Ontario will transition to its “new normal”. The focus during phase three will be on creating jobs and opportunity across the province, while working to restore long-term prosperity. While many details remain outstanding on phase three, the Government has advised that it will partner with businesses and other sectors to lead Ontario’s economic recovery.

The Government of Ontario has stated that the ongoing gradual assessment of public health measures will continue until the post-pandemic period when a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 is available. Further, the Government has made clear that continued protections for vulnerable populations will remain in place, along with the continued practice of physical distancing, hand washing and respiratory hygiene, with significant mitigation plans to remain in place to limit health risks throughout each phase.

Our team will continue to monitor these developments and provide updates as information becomes available. Please watch our COVID-19 hub and our McCarthy Tétrault Employer Advisor blog for further updates. If you are an employer and need assistance, please reach out to any member of our National Labour & Employment Team whenever you need to.



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