The Ontario government has announced a province-wide "shutdown" to curb the spread of COVID-19 effective Saturday, December 26, at 12:01 am.
During the shutdown, all areas of the province will operate under an amended form of the regulation (O. Reg. 80/20) currently governing provincial “grey zones”. The shutdown will continue for two weeks for the 7 public health units in northern Ontario (i.e., until January 9, 2021); and four weeks for the 27 public health units in southern Ontario (i.e., until January 23, 2021).
The Shutdown Measures Will Apply Province-Wide
Under the shutdown measures, unless a business (or part of a business) is of a type listed in the regulation, the business' workplace must be closed. Further guidance on the list of workplaces permitted to open has also been published by the government.
Businesses (or parts of businesses) that are permitted to open must also comply with the conditions specified in the regulation. The requirements that will apply in all regions of the province (including some new requirements for those previously in the government's “grey zone” regions) include, but are not limited to, the following:
- retail businesses which are permitted to open must post a sign in a conspicuous location visible to the public stating the maximum capacity under which they are permitted to operate, and must follow a prescribed formula to determine capacity;
- supermarkets, grocery stores, and other stores that primarily sell food, as well as pharmacies will be permitted to operate at 50% capacity for in-store shopping. Discount and big box retailers that sell groceries will be limited to 25% capacity for in-store shopping. Stores that sell liquor will be limited to 25% capacity for in-store shopping;
- in-person shopping in most retail settings is prohibited, although curbside pickup and delivery can continue;
- indoor and outdoor dining are prohibited. Restaurants, bars, and other food and drink establishments will be permitted to operate by take out, drive-through, and delivery only;
- indoor access to shopping malls is limited to specific conditions, mainly to provide for purchase pick-up. Shopping malls may establish a single designated indoor pickup area, or multiple designated outdoor pickup areas;
- businesses and organizations must comply with the advice, recommendations and instructions of public health officials. They must also comply with the Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health's advice to screen individuals that enter the business, and to permit remote work to the greatest extent possible;
- businesses and organizations that remain open must continue to comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005;
- all members of the public must be able to maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from every other person in a facility (other than persons that live in the same household);
- each person responsible for an open business must prepare a safety plan and make it available to any person who asks to see it. It must also be posted in a conspicuous place where it is likely to come to the attention of individuals working in or attending the location; and
- a business which is open must ensure that any person in the business' indoor area, or in a vehicle that is operating as part of the business, wears a mask or face covering that covers their mouth, nose and chin, subject to exceptions.
The New Ontario Small Business Support Grant
The Ontario government also announced that it will be providing one-time grants of up to $20,000 to small businesses impacted by these new public health measures. Eligible businesses are those that:
- are required to close or significantly restrict services due to the province-wide shutdown;
- have fewer than 100 employees at the enterprise level; and
- have experienced a minimum of 20% revenue decline in April 2020 compared to April 2019.
Further details about this grant, including application information, will be provided in January 2021.
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