What you need to know about Ontario’s stay-at-home new and extended restrictions
Premier Doug Ford declared a second provincial state of emergency, issuing a stay-at-home order that will be in effect for 28 days. The additional restrictions come in response to a new COVID-19 model, which predicts intensive care units to be filled by early next month, with daily mortality rates doubling between mid-January and the end of February.
Effective Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021, at 12:01 a.m., residents are ordered to stay at home, with exceptions for essential work and activities such as picking up groceries, accessing health care services, going to medical appointments, or exercise.
The new COVID-19 modelling reveals a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. “The system is on the brink of collapse… we are at levels we haven’t seen before,” Ford said in a statement, adding that eight new cases of a highly contagious COVID-19 variant from the UK have been confirmed in the province.
“Cases and deaths are the highest since the start of the pandemic and community spread continues to escalate. I’m not blaming anyone, only one thing is truly at fault and that’s the virus,” Ford said.
The state of emergency declaration is to reduce mobility and the number of daily contacts people have with those outside their immediate household. Ford says the stay-at-home order is not a curfew and that a curfew will not be implemented in Ontario because he “does not believe in that.”
Outdoor gathering sizes will be reduced from 10 people to five and those who live alone are allowed to spend time with one other household. However, the government implores people to stay home as much as possible.
All businesses must ensure non-essential employees who can work from home do so, except in special circumstances “where the nature of their work requires them to be on-site at the workplace,” the government said.
All non-essential retail stores (hardware, alcohol, big box retailers, stores offering curbside pickup) will have operating hours of 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Ford said big box stores must follow these protocols or else he will “come down on them like an 800 pound gorilla,” to enforce the restrictions. As for restaurants, pickup and delivery will still be allowed throughout the lockdown.
Non-essential construction is also restricted. Essential construction includes projects in the healthcare, long-term care, transit, and education sectors. Residential construction projects are allowed with exceptions. Renovations that started before Jan. 12, condominium, mixed-use construction projects, and single-family, semi-detached, and townhome construction projects already granted with a footing permit are allowed.
There will also be no in-class instruction until Feb. 10 for schools from the following public health units (PHUs): Toronto, York, Peel Region, Hamilton, and Windsor-Essex.
The government said the Chief Medical Officer of Health will advise the Ministry of Education on which PHUs will be allowed to resume in-person instruction by Jan. 20.