Ontario announces return to province wide COVID-19 lockdown

23 December 2020

On December 21, 2020 the Provincial government announced that it will implement a province-wide lockdown commencing at 12:01 a.m. on Boxing Day (December 26). The lockdown comes on the heels of further restrictions in Alberta and Quebec as COVID-19 cases continue to rise nationwide.

Premier Doug Ford announced that the duration of the lockdown would vary based on geography. Health Regions south of Sudbury will be in an ordered lockdown for at least 28 days (January 23, 2021), whereas Health Regions north of Sudbury will be subject to an initial lockdown of 14 days (January 9, 2021).

The government also announced that it would put its COVID-19 Response Framework on hold for the length of the shutdown. As with the lockdown in March, all nonessential businesses will be closed, except for curbside pickup and delivery. The government also published new amendments to the O.Reg. 82/20 : Rules for Areas in Stage 1 (Lockdown) which sets out which essential businesses can continue to provide goods and services during the lockdown. The revised regulations focus on curbside pickup, direct retail for groceries only and a broader definition of child care centre. Specifically, the provincial government is attempting to:

  • Restrict indoor organized public events and social gatherings, except with members of the same household. Individuals who live alone may consider having exclusive close contact with one other household.
  • Prohibit in-person shopping in most retail settings--curbside pickup and delivery can continue. Discount and big box retailers selling groceries will be limited to 25 per cent capacity for in-store shopping. Supermarkets, grocery stores and similar stores that primarily sell food, as well as pharmacies, will continue to operate at 50 per cent capacity for in-store shopping.
  • Restrict indoor access to shopping malls--limiting curbside pickup to a designated indoor pickup area by appointment only. Essential retail stores that are permitted to be open (e.g., pharmacy, grocery store) are subject to physical distancing and face covering requirements. Food courts are limited to takeout purchases.
  • Prohibit indoor and outdoor dining. Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments will be permitted to operate by take out, drive-through, and delivery only. 
  • Permit child care centres to remain open for the duration of the lockdown period provided they do not provide services to school-aged children for the period of time in which elementary schools are operating virtually.

The full amendments can be found on Ontario.ca. The provincial government also published a presentation with sector-specific guidance.

Impact on School

Students from K-12 will be learning remotely during the week of January 4th. Elementary students across the province and secondary students north of Sudbury will resume in-class instruction on January 11th. While, students in secondary schools south of Sudbury will learn remotely until January 25th.

As a result of these restrictions, many employers may face requests for workplace accommodation from employees who may now have added child care obligations.

Employers are encouraged to carefully review the most recent regulation regarding the provision of essential services to determine whether or not their workplace has been affected, or to contact a member of Gowling WLG's Employment, Labour & Equalities group.

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