COVID-19 Update: Ontario Declares Second Provincial Emergency
Since our last update on January 15, 2021, the Government of Ontario has published a series of amendments to O. Reg. 82/20: Rules for Areas in Stage 1 under Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020, S.O. 2020, c. 17 (the “Stage 1 Rules”). Such amendments relate to capacity limits, businesses permitted to open and school openings:
Pursuant to O. Reg. 37/21, the Government of Ontario has amended the capacity limits for businesses or facilities open to the public in Schedule 1 to the Stage 1 Rules by replacing references to “persons” with “members of the public”.
Businesses Permitted to Open
The Government of Ontario has amended certain provisions in Schedule 2 that permit certain businesses to open:
Reg. 38/21: Retail businesses that, as of December 26, 2020, were permitted to be open only in accordance with the conditions set out in subsection 10.1(1) of Schedule 2 to the Stage 1 Rules, may only continue to be open in accordance with those conditions whether or not, after that date, it has modified its operations or the type of products that it sells.
Reg. 39/21: Construction projects that commenced before January 12, 2021, may continue if they would provide additional capacity to, or enhance the efficiency or operations of, businesses that extract, manufacture, process and distribute goods, products, equipment and materials.
Reg. 40/21: Commercial film and television production, including all supporting activities such as hair, makeup and wardrobe, may be located in any business or place, including any business or place that is otherwise required to be closed under the Stage 1 Rules.
The Government of Ontario has also made amendments to expand the list of regions that may provide in-person teaching. For example, pursuant to O. Reg. 36/21, it expanded the list to include: City of Ottawa Health Unit, The Eastern Ontario Health Unit, Middlesex-London Health Unit and Oxford Elgin St. Thomas Health Unit.
On January 12, 2021, the Government of Ontario declared a second provincial emergency under s. 7.0.1(1) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.
In addition, the Government of Ontario announced a stay-at-home order, effective January 14, 2021 at 12:01 a.m (the “Stay-at-Home Order”). Pursuant to the Stay-at-Home Order, Ontarians must remain in their place of residence at all times, unless leaving their place of residence is for one or more of the following purposes permitted by the Stay-at-Home Order:
- Work, school and child care;
- Obtaining goods and services;
- Assisting others;
- Health, safety and legal purposes;
- Multiple residences and moving;
- Gatherings; or
In addition to the foregoing, the Government of Ontario has taken the following steps:
Additional Public Health Restrictions
Pursuant to amendments to O. Reg. 82/20: Rules for Areas in Stage 1 (the “Amendments”), unless the nature of their work requires a worker to be on-site, each business or organization that is permitted to open must ensure that any person who performs work for the business conducts their work remotely. This does not apply to any government or any publicly-funded agency or organization that delivers supports to government operations and services, including operations and services of the health care sector.
In addition, the Amendments also set out various following public health restrictions that can be summarized as follows:
- Wearing a mask or face covering in the indoor areas of businesses or organizations is required, unless the individual is subject to an exception provided in O. Reg. 82/20: Rules for Areas in Stage 1. For example, masks or face coverings are not required to be worn by employees in an area of a workplace that is not accessible to members of the public provided that they are capable of maintaining physical distancing of at least two metres (2m) from every other person.
- With limited exceptions, outdoor organized public and social gatherings are further restricted from 10 people to 5 people.
- With the exception of their caregiver or members of their household, every person in a place of business or facility that is open to the public must physically distance from every other person. Exceptions to the physical distancing requirement include: (i) where necessary to complete a transaction or to receive a service, (ii) passing others in confined locations such as hallways or aisles, or (iii) or where the Amendments expressly authorize individuals to be closer than two metres.
- Non-essential retailers that are permitted to open, including those who are permitted to offer curbside pickup or delivery only, must open no earlier than 7 a.m. and close no later than 8 p.m. However, these restricted hours of operation do not apply to businesses including but not limited to those that primarily sell food, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores, and restaurants offering takeout or delivery.
- Non-essential construction is further restricted.
New Enforcement Measures
Pursuant to O. Reg. 8/21: Enforcement of COVID-19 Measures, Ontario has provided authority to all enforcement and provincial offences officers, including the Ontario Provincial Police, local police forces, bylaw officers, and provincial workplace inspectors, to issue tickets to individuals who do not comply with the stay-at-home-order, or those not wearing a mask or face covering indoors as well as retail operators and companies who do not enforce requirements under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act or the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. Those who do not comply with orders will be subject to a set fine and/or prosecution.
Schools and Child Care Centres
Pursuant to the Government’s announcement, schools in the Windsor-Essex, Peel Region, Toronto, York and Hamilton public health units will not return to in-person teaching or instruction until February 10, 2021 (the “Announcement”). They may, however, open for certain reasons as set out in the Amendments.
According to the Announcement, by January 20, 2021, the Chief Medical Officer of Health will advise the Ministry of Education on which public health units will be permitted to resume in-person instruction, based on the most up-to-date data and modelling. Schools in Northern Ontario will continue to remain open. Before- and after-school programs will be re-offered when in-person instruction resumes.
Child care centres for non-school aged children may remain open.
Within its Announcement, the Government of Ontario also set out that it would be implementing the following new health and safety measures for in-person learning:
- Masking for Grade 1-3 and requirements for mask wearing outdoors;
- Enhanced screening protocols; and
- Expanded targeted testing.
Within the Announcement, Ontario’s Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development noted the launch of the “Stay Safe All Day” campaign. The campaign is intended to focus workplace inspections in areas of high transmission, including break rooms, and providing new educational materials to employers to promote safe behaviour before, during and after work.
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.