Ontario Announces Second Declaration of Emergency

Published on January 12, 2021

In response to a doubling in COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks, the real and looming threat of the collapse of the province’s hospital system and alarming risks posed to long-term care homes as a result of high COVID-19 transmission rates, the government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and other health experts, has declared a second provincial emergency under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.  

The government is also issuing a stay-at-home-order to limit people’s mobility and reduce the number of daily contacts with those outside the immediate household. In addition to limiting outings to essential trips such as grocery shopping or going to a doctor appointment, all businesses must ensure that any employee who can work from home, does work from home.

New data has been released that seriously concerns the government:  

  • Growth in cases has accelerated and is over 7% on the worst days.  
  • Almost 40% of long-term care homes have active COVID-19 outbreaks. Since January 1st, 198 LTC residents have died of COVID-19.  
  • COVID-19 ICU occupancy is now over 400 beds and is projected to be as high as 1,000 beds by early February which has the potential to overwhelm Ontario’s hospitals.  
  • Mobility and contacts between people have not decreased with the current restrictions and provincial shutdown.  
  • A new variant of concern of COVID-19 emerged in November and was confirmed to be present in Ontario in December. If community transmission of this variant occurs, Ontario could experience much higher case counts faster, ICU occupancy and mortality. 

In response to the alarming, exceptional circumstances, and to break the deadly trend of transmission, the government is taking several additional public health measures during the state of emergency to break the break the deadly trend of transmission.

Additional Public Health Measures during the State of Emergency:

Stay at Home Order 

The government intends to issue an order requiring everyone to stay at home with exceptions for essential permitted purposes or activities, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services, for exercise or for essential work where the work cannot be done remotely

Outdoor Gatherings 

The government intends to reduce outdoor organized public events and gatherings to 5 people with limited exceptions, consistent with the rules during the lockdown in Spring 2020.   

Non-essential construction  

Non-essential construction is further restricted, including below-grade construction, exempting survey.  

Retail  

All non-essential retail stores, including hardware 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. 

Masking 

Individuals are required to wear a mask or face covering indoors in public spaces. 

The government recommends the use of face coverings outdoors if within 2 m of someone outside your household. 

Expanding rapid testing for critical businesses, long-term care homes and schools  

The government will provide up to 300,000 COVID-19 rapid tests per week to support key sectors such as manufacturing, warehousing, supply chain and food processing as well as additional tests for in schools and long-term care homes.  

This will support antigen screening for up to 150,000 workers per week over the next 4-5 months in Ontario’s most critical workplaces.  

The government is expecting to receive 12 million Panbio Rapid Testing Devices from the federal government over the next several months, and we continue to pursue opportunities to purchase additional rapid tests. 

 Evictions 

Suspend evictions (AG’s discretion) - suspending enforcement of evictions 

Additional Enforcement Powers 

Provide new authority for police and other provincial offences officers to disperse gatherings or organized public events that are not complying with gathering/event limits, and 

Ensure that all provincial offences officers, not just police, First Nations Constables and special constables, can temporarily close premises where prohibited gatherings are occurring and require individuals to vacate. 

Fines for violations remain as follows: 

  • Individuals can either be issued a ticket for a set fine amount established by the Ontario Chief Justice:
    • Fail to comply with an order: $750
    • Obstruct any person exercising a power in accordance with an order: $1,000
    • Obstruct any person performing a duty in accordance with an order: $1,000
  • or be served with a summons (Part I) or have an information laid (Part III) in which case the court would impose a penalty upon conviction - subject to the maximum penalty of a fine of not more than $100,000 and not more than 1 year in jail.
  • In the case of corporations or corporate officers, the fine imposed would be determined upon conviction as part of sentencing, but for a corporation could be as high as $10,000,000. In addition, fines can be increased by an amount equal to the financial benefit that was acquired by or that accrued to the person as a result of the commission of the offence.”
  • In addition, hosts or organizers of parties which exceed limits on gatherings may face more stringent penalties. On conviction, this offence carries a $10,000 minimum fine. 

It is critically important that all Ontarians strictly adhere to all public health advice and all public health and workplace safety measures, including the new measures outlined today, to protect our communities and most vulnerable populations, prevent our hospitals from becoming overwhelmed, and stop the spread of COVID-19.   

For the Modelling Update, click here

To access the Enhanced Public Health and Workplace Safety Measures in the Provincewide Shutdown, click here

For News Release, click here