COVID-19 Update: Ontario Temporarily Moves to Modified Step Two of its Roadmap to Reopen
On January 3, 2022, the Government of Ontario, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, announced that it would be temporarily be moving the province into Step Two of its Roadmap to Reopen with modifications effective Wednesday, January 5, 2022 at 12:01 a.m. for at least 21 days until January 26, 2022 (subject to exceptions set out below).
These measures include:
- reducing social gathering limits to five people indoors and 10 people outdoors;
- limiting capacity at organized public events to five people indoors;
- requiring businesses and organizations to ensure employees work remotely unless the nature of their work requires them to be on-site;
- limiting capacity at indoor weddings, funerals, and religious services, rites and ceremonies to 50 per cent capacity of the particular room. Outdoor services are limited to the number of people that can maintain 2 metres of physical distance. Any social gatherings associated with these services are required to adhere to the social gathering limits;
- permitting retail settings, including shopping malls, to operate at 50 per cent capacity. For shopping malls, physical distancing will be required in line-ups, loitering is not permitted and food courts are required to close;
- permitting personal care services to operate at 50 per cent capacity along with other restrictions. Saunas, steam rooms and oxygen bars are required to close;
- closing indoor meeting and event spaces with limited exceptions, however, outdoor spaces are permitted to remain open with restrictions;
- limited capacity at public libraries to 50 per cent capacity;
- closing indoor dining at restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments. Outdoor dining with restrictions, takeout, drive through and delivery is permitted;
- the sale of alcohol will be restricted after 10 p.m. and the consumption of alcohol on-premise in businesses or settings after 11 p.m. with delivery and takeout, grocery/convenience stores and other liquor stores exempted;
- closing indoor concert venues, theatres, cinemas, rehearsals and recorded performances permitted with restrictions;
- closing museums, galleries, zoos, science centres, landmarks, historic sites, botanical gardens and similar attractions, amusement parks and waterpark tour and guide services and fairs, rural exhibitions, and festivals. Outdoor establishments are permitted to open with restrictions and with spectator occupancy, where applicable, limited to 50 per cent capacity;
- indoor sport and recreational fitness facilities including gyms, except for athletes training for the Olympics and Paralympics and select professional and elite amateur sport leagues are required to close. Outdoor facilities are permitted to operate but with the number of spectators not to exceed 50 per cent occupancy and other requirements;
- all publicly funded and private schools are moving to remote learning starting January 5 until at least January 17, subject to public health trends and operational considerations;
- school buildings are permitted to open for child-care operations, including emergency child-care, to provide in-person instruction for students with special education needs who cannot be accommodated remotely. They are also permitted to open for staff who are unable to deliver quality instruction from home;
- free emergency child care will be provided for school-aged children of health care and other eligible frontline workers during this period of remote learning.
On January 5, 2022, the Chief Medical Officer of Health will also reinstate Directive 2 for hospitals and regulated health professionals; instructing hospitals to pause all non-emergent and non-urgent surgeries and procedures.
The Government of Ontario is expanding the new Ontario Business Costs Rebate Program as eligible businesses that are required to close or reduce capacity will receive rebate payments for a portion of the property tax and energy costs they incur while subject to these measures:
- eligible businesses required to reduce capacity to 50 per cent (i.e. smaller retail stores, will receive a rebate payment equivalent to 50 per cent of their costs);
- eligible businesses required to close for indoor activities, such as restaurants and gyms, will receive a rebate payment equivalent to 100 per cent of their costs.
Lastly, effective January 1, 2022, the Government of Ontario is providing up to $7.5 billion for a six-month interest- and penalty-free period for Ontario businesses to make payments for most provincially administered taxes.
This update is part of our continuing efforts to keep you informed about COVID-19. If you are an employer and need assistance, please reach out to any member of our Labour & Employment Team or leaders of our Hub for Business Leaders.
 The Government of Ontario has advised that a full list of eligible business types will be made available when applications for the program open later this month.