Reported by Wendy Gray

As of Thursday, all Ontarians must stay at home.  Premier Doug Ford has declared a state of emergency and has issued a stay-at-home order.  This is the second state of emergency in Ontario since the pandemic began in March. Ford says everyone in Ontario must stay at home with the exception of going out for groceries and medical appointments.  The new measures will be enforced by police, bylaw officers, and workplace safety inspectors and will have the ability to fine what Ford once again called “bad actors.” As well, all businesses must ensure that any employee who can work from home, does work from home. This order will be in place for at least 28 days.

“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 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.”

Along with the state of emergency and stay-at-home-order the following additional health measures are in place:

  • Outdoor organized public gatherings and social gatherings are further restricted to a limit of five people with limited exceptions. This is consistent with the rules during the lockdown during the first wave of COVID-19 in spring 2020 and will allow individuals and families to enjoy time outdoors safely.
  • 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.

Based on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, schools in the following public health units (PHUs) will not return to in-person instruction until February 10, 2021:

  • Windsor-Essex
  • Peel Region
  • Toronto
  • York
  • Hamilton

Whether schools in other areas of the province will re-open for in-person learning as planned on January 25th, is not known at this time.  That decision will be announced by January 20th by Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.  Schools in Northern Ontario will continue to be open for in-person learning.  Before- and after-school programs can be offered when in-person instruction resumes.

To continue to keep students, staff, and communities safe, the following new health and safety measures will be put in place for in-person learning:

  • Masking for Grade 1-3 and requirements for mask wearing outdoors;
  • Enhanced screening protocols; and
  • Expanded targeted testing.

In a government media release, the province says, “all enforcement personnel will have the authority to temporarily close a premise and disperse individuals who are in contravention of an order and will be able to disperse people who are gathering, regardless of whether a premise has been closed or remains open such as a park or house.”