Explaining The New Public Health Measures In Ontario

Explaining The New Public Health Measures In Ontario

Effective Thursday, January 14, 2021at 12:01 a.m., the government is issuing a stay-at-home order requiring everyone to remain at home with exceptions for permitted  purposes or activities, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services, for exercise or for work where the work cannot be done remotely. This order and other new and existing public health restrictions are aimed at limiting people’s mobility and reducing the number of daily contacts with those outside an immediate household. In addition to limiting outings for these purposes, all businesses must ensure that any employee who can work from home, does work from home.

Additional Public Health Restrictions

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 will take effect January 13, 2021 at 12:01 a.m.:

  • 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.

These measures will come into effect between Tuesday January 12, 2021 and Thursday, January 14, 2021, including the provincial declaration of emergency under the EMCPA, orders under that Act, and amendments to regulations under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020.

To help quickly identify and isolate cases of COVID-19 in workplaces and service providers permitted to remain open such as long-term care homes and schools, the province will provide up to 300,000 COVID-19 tests per week to support key sectors such as manufacturing, warehousing, supply chain and food processing, as well as additional tests for schools and long-term care homes. This volume of rapid tests would support antigen screening for up to 150,000 workers per week over the next 4-5 months in Ontario’s most critical workplaces. The province is expecting to receive 12 million Panbio tests from the federal government over the next several months and continues to pursue opportunities to purchase additional rapid tests.

The government knows that in order to keep Ontarians safe, it is important that they are not forced to leave their homes during the new state of emergency. Ontario is exploring all options available to put a temporary residential evictions moratorium in place, and will have more to say in the coming days.

The additional public health restrictions introduced expand on the existing measures put in place to keep Ontarians safe and healthy. On January 7, the government extended the shutdown for Northern Ontario to at least January 23, 2021 to align with the rest of the province. These time-limited measures will be evaluated after 14 days to determine if any restrictions need to be extended or lifted.

New Enforcement Measures

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 an order and will be able to disperse people who are gathering, regardless whether a premise has been closed or remains open such as a park.

Schools and Child Care Centres

Based on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, schools in the following public health units (PHUs) will not return to in-person instruction until February 10, 2021:

  • Windsor-Essex
  • Peel Region
  • Toronto
  • York
  • Hamilton

By January 20, 2021, the Chief Medical Officer of Health will advise the Ministry of Education on which public health units (PHUs) will be permitted to resume in-person instruction, based on the most up-to-date data and modelling. Before and after-school programs can be offered when in-person instruction resumes. Schools in northern PHUs will continue to remain open.

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 government will also implement new health and safety measures in Ontario child care settings, such as enhanced screening to align with school requirements, voluntary participation in targeted testing and additional infection prevention and control measures to align with schools. These enhancements are in addition to the existing health and safety measures already being implemented in child care settings across the province.

Child care centres for non-school aged children will remain open, and emergency child care for school-aged children will end in approved PHU regions on January 22, 2021 as these elementary schools return to in-person learning.During this extended period of online learning, in areas where in-person elementary learning is suspended, emergency child care will continue for eligible families in regions subject to school closures, as identified by the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

Workplace Safety

The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development is taking additional steps to protect workers with the launch of the “Stay Safe All Day” campaign, focusing workplace inspections in areas of high transmission, including break rooms, and providing new educational materials to employers to promote safe behaviour before, during and after work.

Evidence gathered from COVID-19 related workplace inspections to date shows the vast majority of employers and workers are following COVID-19 safety requirements when working. However, when in a break room, a vehicle or not on the clock, there is a tendency to forget about the importance of wearing masks, maintaining physical distance and hand hygiene.

As part of the “Stay Safe All Day” campaign, inspectors will use a data-driven approach to focus on workplaces with reported COVID-19 outbreaks, manufacturing businesses, warehouses, distribution centres, food processing operations, construction projects and publicly accessible workplaces deemed essential, such as grocery stores. The Ministry is also using a new data-sharing program, in conjunction with the Ministry of Long-Term Care and the Retirement Regulatory Authority, to focus onsite inspections of long-term-care homes and retirement homes.

In the unfortunate event that an employee becomes infected with COVID-19, they may be entitled to federally funded paid sick leave of up to $500 a week for two weeks. Workers can also access Canada’s Recovery Caregiver Benefit of up to $500 per week for up to 26 weeks if they are unable to work because they must care for their child under 12 years old or a family member who needs supervised care.

Source: Government of Ontario

Photo Credit: CPAC via YouTube screenshot

 

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