Ontario, Canada Declares Third Provincial Emergency and Enacts Stay-at-Home Order

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In response to the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases, concerns over hospital intensive care unit capacity, and the increasing risk to the public caused by COVID-19 variants, on April 7, 2021, Ontario announced the declaration of a third provincial emergency and the enactment of a stay-at-home order.

Emergency Declaration

Effective immediately, Ontario’s third emergency was declared under s 7.0.1 (1) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act .

Stay-at-Home Order

Ontario issued a stay-at-home order, effective April 8, 2021.  Pursuant to this order, everyone in the province must stay at home, except to:

  • Go to the grocery store or pharmacy;
  • Access health care services (including to be vaccinated);
  • Exercise outdoors; or
  • Perform work that cannot be done remotely. 

Measures to Strengthen Public Health and Workplace Safety

In addition, effective April 8, 2021, Ontario put measures in place to strengthen public health and workplace safety, including but not limited to:

Non-essential Retail

  • Limiting the operation of most non-essential retailers to curbside pick-up and delivery during specified hours;
  • Restricting access to shopping malls for the purpose of access to curbside pick-up and delivery;
  • Restricting discount and big-box stores in-person retail sales to grocery items, pet care supplies, household cleaning supplies, pharmaceutical items, health care items, and personal care items only;
  • Permitting the following stores to operate for in-person retail by appointment and subject to a 25% capacity limit and restricted hours of operation:
    • Safety supply stores;
    • Businesses that primarily sell, rent or repair assistive devices, mobility devices, or medical devices, aids or supplies;
    • Rental and leasing services including automobile, commercial and light industrial machinery and equipment rental;
    • Optical stores that sell prescription eyewear to the public;
    • Businesses that sell motor vehicles, boats and other watercraft;
    • Vehicle and equipment repair and essential maintenance and vehicle and equipment rental services; and
    • Retail stores operated by a telecommunications provider or service, which may only permit members of the public to enter the premises to purchase a cellphone or for repairs or technical support.
  • Permitting outdoor garden centres and plant nurseries, and indoor greenhouses that sell to the public to operate with a 25% capacity limit and restricted hours of operation. 

Workplace Inspections

To continue to protect essential workers, health and safety inspectors and provincial offenses officers will increase inspections and enforcement at essential businesses in regional hot zones. 

Rapid Testing

To encourage the use of rapid testing, there will be additional outreach to employers in regions with highest rates of transmission and increased access to testing, and the process for enrollment in the screening program will be streamlined.

Bottom Line for Employers

Employers are encouraged to become familiar with all of the measures put in place that apply to them, ensure their compliance, and consult with experienced employment counsel to ask any related questions they may have. 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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