The Ontario government has unveiled new public health restrictions in the face of growing COVID-19 case numbers and deaths throughout the province.
Starting Jan. 14, at 12:01 a.m., a host of new measures will take effect aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.
The announcement comes as the government introduces a second state of emergency in the province.
As well, in new modelling data released Tuesday, health officials now say that without “significant reductions in contacts,” Ontario’s health system will be overwhelmed and mortality related to COVID-19 will exceed the first wave totals, even with their vaccination efforts in place.
Residents must remain at home at all times, with exceptions for essential purposes, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services, for exercise or for essential work.
Businesses across the province must ensure that any employee who can work from home, does work from home.
Outdoor gatherings limited
The size of outdoor social gatherings has been slashed from 10 people to five people, with limited exceptions.
The government says the limits, which resemble those imposed in the spring of 2020, will allow individuals and families to enjoy time outdoors safely.
School closures extended in COVID-19 hot spots
In-person learning will not return until Feb. 11 for Toronto, York Region, Hamilton, Windsor-Essex and Peel Region.
Elementary and Secondary schools in the southern part of the province (south of Sudbury) were slated to remain closed until Jan. 25, which is two weeks later than the original reopening date.
In-person learning resumed in northern Ontario for elementary students on Jan. 11.
New guidance on mask use
It is now being recommended that individuals wear a face covering or mask when outdoors and cannot physically distance from others.
Individuals are still required to wear a mask or face covering in the indoor areas of businesses or organizations.
Retail hours slashed
Non-essential stores must open no earlier than 7 a.m. and close no later than 8 p.m., including hardware stores, alcohol retailers, and those offering curbside pickup or delivery.
Those restrictions do not apply to stores that primarily sell food, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores and restaurants for takeout and deliver.
Non-essential construction limited
The government says non-essential construction, including below-grade projects, will be limited.
New Enforcement Measures
The government has also introduced new enforcement measures to ensure that the enhanced public health restrictions are observed across the province.
Premier Doug Ford says that all enforcement and provincial offences officers, including the Ontario Provincial Police, local police forces, bylaw officers, and provincial workplace inspectors, will have the authority to issue to tickets to individuals found in contravention with the stay-at-home order or mask covering guidelines.
Additionally, retail operators and companies who do not enforce the mask covering measures will also be at risk of such a fine.