On February 8, 2021, Ontario issued a news release announcing that it would be moving to a regional approach regarding its COVID-19 response. Most regions are maintaining the province's shutdown, stay-at home order, and public health and workplace safety measures. When safe, the province will gradually transition each region from the shutdown to a revised and strengthened COVID-19 Response Framework: Keeping Ontario Safe and Open (Framework). Premier Doug Ford indicated that this approach is motivated by the impact COVID-19 has had on businesses and a need to allow them to safely reopen.
Status of Stay-at-home Orders
As public health trends are improving more quickly in some regions than others, the current stay-at-home order will be amended accordingly. Except for the three regions listed immediately below that will no longer be subject to a stay-at home order on February 10, 2021, individual stay-at-home orders will be made applicable to each public health region.
February 10, 2021
On February 10, 2021, the following regions will no longer be subject to the stay-at-home order, and they will be moving back to the Green-Prevent level of the Framework:
- Hastings Prince Edward Public Health;
- Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health; and
- Renfrew County and District Health.
February 16, 2021
It is proposed that until February 16, 2021, the stay-at-home order will continue to apply to 28 public health regions.
February 22, 2021
It proposed that until February 22, 2021, the stay-at-home order will continue to apply to:
- Peel; and
Final decisions will be subject to a review of public health indicator trends.
Introduction of an "Emergency Brake"
Because of the risk posed by the new variants, Ontario introduced an "emergency brake" to allow the Chief Medical Officer of Health, in consultation with the local medical officer of health, to immediately move a public health unit region into Grey-Lockdown to interrupt transmission if:
- It experiences rapid acceleration in COVID-19 transmission; or
- Its health care system risks being overwhelmed.
Termination of Provincial Emergency
On February 9, 2021, the provincial emergency declared under s. 7.01 of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act ended.
A Safer Approach in Retail
The updated Framework will permit limited in-person shopping in Grey-Lockdown zones (in most settings, 25% of capacity), with public health and safety measures. At other levels of the Framework, retail public health and safety measures will be strengthened. When indoors in businesses, face coverings and physical distancing will be required, with limited exceptions.
Organized Public Events or Gatherings
Where organized public events or gatherings are permitted, individuals in attendance will be required to wear a face covering when they are within two metres of another individual who is not part of their household, regardless of whether the event or gathering is indoors or outdoors. All other requirements pertaining to events and gatherings will be maintained.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.