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Second Time the Charm? Ontario Issues State of Emergency

We lost control of the second wave, and now a second lockdown is here — a real lockdown, not the knockoff lockdown we got in December. We aren’t going to be able to vaccinate our way out of the current crisis either. The wave of COVID-19 infections that is, right now, overwhelming our hospitals and causing mass death in the long-term-care system (again) was baked into the system weeks ago.

Since the implementation of the Province-wide Shutdown over three weeks ago, the latest modelling trends in key public health indicators have continued to worsen, forecasting an overwhelming of the health system unless drastic action is taken.

At least 2 new variants of COVID-19 emerged recently, both of which have a much higher transmission rate than the original virus, and if community transmission of these variants occurs, Ontario could experience much higher case counts, ICU occupancy and mortality.

So in response to the alarming and exceptional circumstances at hand, and to further interrupt the deadly trend of transmission in Ontario communities, hospitals, and long-term care homes, the following additional public health measures took effect on January 13, 2021:

  • Outdoor organized public gatherings and social gatherings are further restricted to a limit of five people with limited exceptions. This is consistent with the rules during the lockdown during the first wave of COVID-19 in spring 2020 and will allow individuals and families to enjoy time outdoors safely.
  • Individuals are required to wear a mask or face covering in the indoor areas of businesses or organizations that are open. Wearing a mask or face covering is now recommended outdoors when you can’t physically distance more than two metres.
  • All non-essential retail stores, including hardware stores, alcohol retailers, 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.
  • Non-essential construction is further restricted, including below-grade construction, exempting survey.

Schools

To continue to keep students, staff and communities safe, the following new health and safety measures will be put in place for in-person learning:

  • Masking for Grade 1-3 and requirements for mask wearing outdoors;
  • Enhanced screening protocols; and
  • Expanded targeted testing.

The province will provide authority to all provincial offences officers, including the Ontario Provincial Police, local police forces, bylaw officers, and provincial workplace inspectors to issue tickets to individuals who do not comply with the stay-at-home-order, or those not wearing a mask or face covering indoors in places open to the public, subject to limited exceptions, as well as retail operators and companies who do not enforce requirements under orders under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act (ROA) or EMPCA. Those who decide not to abide by orders will be subject to a set fine and/or prosecution under both the ROA and EMCPA as applicable.

In addition, all provincial offences officers will have the authority to temporarily close a premise and disperse individuals who are in contravention of gathering limits and will be able to disperse people who are gathering, regardless whether a premise has been closed or remains open such as a park.

“Strong, new measures will be enforced to stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. “We are taking extraordinary action to provide law enforcement officers with the tools and support they need to protect the health and wellbeing of Ontarians.”

 

Written by WRRP Staff and Province of Ontario Sources

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