This afternoon, Premier Doug Ford declared that the Province of Ontario issued a second Emergency Order under s. 7.01(1) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMPCA). While the details of the Emergency Order are still unclear, Premier Ford announced that effective 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, January 14, 2021 the Ontario government is issuing a stay-at-home order. In addition, the Ontario government will issue the following restrictions, each coming into effect between today and January 14, 2021:
- All persons must stay at home and only leave for specific essential purposes such as grocery shopping, exercise, accessing health care services or attending work for essential workers;
- Outdoor public gatherings must be limited to five people, with limited exceptions;
- All persons must wear a mask or face coverings inside businesses or organizations that are open for business. Masks and face coverings are recommended outdoors where individuals cannot social distance more than two meters;
- Non-essential retailers such as hardware stores, stores selling alcohol and those offering curbside pickup or delivery, can only be open between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. This restriction does not apply to stores that primarily sell food, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores, and restaurants that offer takeout or delivery;
- Non-essential construction is further restricted, though it is not clear how;
- Schools in Ontario will remain closed to in-person instruction in high-risk areas including Toronto, York Region and Peel Region until at least February 10, 2021; and
- All businesses must ensure that all employees work from home if they can.
The new measures will be enforced by the Ontario Provincial Police, local police forces, bylaw officers and provincial workplace inspectors, all of whom can issue tickets to individuals and businesses who do not comply with the new requirements, and will have the authority to temporarily close premises in contravention of the new measures. The tickets may result in fines or prosecution under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act and EMPCA with jail terms of up to one year.
Many questions remain following Premier Ford’s announcement, including whether employers who are not able to permit employees to work from home due to infrastructure limitations will be ticketed. Stay tuned for an update from our team once the regulations are released by the Ontario government.