In light of increasing COVID-19 cases and a straining healthcare system, the Ontario government has strengthened its stay-at-home order, put new travel restrictions in place, and enhanced the province’s public health guidelines. This decision was rendered by the Ontario government, after consulting the chief medical officer of health and other safety experts, and went into effect on April 17, 2021.
Enhanced Authority for Law Enforcement
Public compliance with the stay-at-home order is a priority, so the initial emergency order has been revised to provide police officers and other authorities with more expansive enforcement capabilities. Police officers, as well as other provincial offences officers, are allowed to approach individuals, request their home addresses, and ask why they are not in their homes. Also, police officers, First National constables, and special constables are allowed to stop vehicles and question individuals about their reasons for leaving their homes. This enhanced authority will remain in effect only for the duration of the stay-at-home order.
The Reasoning for Government Action
Premier Doug Ford voiced concern that COVID-19 cases could soon spiral and hospitals could be overwhelmed if the government did not take immediate action. He stated that although the decision was difficult, he believed it was critical to reduce people’s mobility and keep them safely at home.
The stay-at-home order, which became effective on April 8, mandates that everyone remain at home with few exceptions: examples include shopping at a pharmacy or grocery store, receiving medical care (including vaccines), exercising outside, and going to jobs that cannot be done remotely. Both it and the provincial emergency declaration have been extended for another two weeks.
Impact on Construction, Business, and Travel
Minister of Labour Monte McNaughton stated that businesses must make every effort to halt the spread of COVID-19. He noted that the government had begun an inspection campaign, with 200 inspectors visiting 1,300 construction sites to enforce safety requirements. Inspectors will also visit more than 500 workplaces, such as warehouses, manufacturers, big-box stores, and food processors, in Toronto, Ottowa, and York Region.
In addition, the government is restricting travel from the provinces of Manitoba and Quebec into Ontario. Exceptions are being made for healthcare services, necessary work, supply deliveries, and activities related to Aboriginal rights.
Current Safety Guidelines
The following workplace safety and public health guidelines also went into effect on April 17.
- All non-essential construction workplaces are closed.
- All outdoor social gatherings and public events are prohibited, with exceptions made for those of the same household and caregivers.
- All in-store retail shopping is limited to 25% capacity.
- All outdoor recreational facilities are closed with very few exceptions.
As of Monday, April 19, 2021, the government is also limiting attendance to just ten people for religious services, funerals, weddings, and other ceremonies—either indoors or outdoors. Receptions or other social gatherings related to these events are prohibited, with exceptions for those involving members of the same household (and an allowance for one additional person not from that household but who lives alone). Drive-in services are permitted.
According to current data for Ontario, the number of COVID-19 cases, associated hospitalizations, and ICU occupancy are increasing rapidly and are at their highest levels since March 2020.