Four weeks at home, and third state of emergency for the province

The Ontario government has announced the third state of emergency, and issued a four-week stay-at-home order across the province, beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, April 8.

“There’s no doubt that this third wave has been different from anything we’ve faced so far,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said at a press conference on Wednesday. “The risks are greater and the stakes are higher.”

“Folks, please, unless it’s for an essential reason please stay home… We need to limit mobility.”

What changes during the stay-at-home order?

A core change during the four-week stay at home order is to retail operation, with the elimination of in-person shopping at non-essential retail stores, curbside pickup only.

These are the restrictions in retail setting during the stay-at-home order:

  • Non-essential retailers will operate for curbside pick-up and delivery only, via appointment, between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m., with delivery of goods permitted between 6:00 am and 9:00 pm

  • Access to shopping malls will be limited to specified purposes, including access to a designated pickup location inside the shopping mall

  • Discount and big box stores can only sell essential items: grocery items, pet care supplies, household cleaning supplies, pharmaceutical items, health care items, and personal care items

  • Outdoor garden centres and plant nurseries can remain open 

The following stores are allowed to operate for in-person retail by appointment only and subject to a 25 per cent capacity limit between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.:

  • Safety supply stores

  • Businesses that primarily sell, rent or repair assistive devices, aids or supplies, mobility devices, aids or supplies or medical devices, aids or supplies

  • Rental and leasing services including automobile, commercial and light industrial machinery and equipment rental

  • Optical stores that sell prescription eyewear to the public

  • Businesses that sell motor vehicles, boats and other watercraft

  • Vehicle and equipment repair and essential maintenance and vehicle and equipment rental services

  • Retail stores operated by a telecommunications provider or service

  • Indoor greenhouses that engage in sales to the public

While schools in Toronto and Peel recently closed for in-person learning, schools and child care in other areas of the province will remain open.

Ford confirmed that during the stay-at-home order, residential evictions will be suspended.

How will the stay-at-home order be enforced?

When asked about enforcement of the stay-at-home order, Ford continued to ask Ontarians to stay home as much as possible.

“Everyone knows we don’t have enough police officers to run around and chase people down and knock on 15 million people’s homes,” the premier said. “We’re asking for the cooperation.”

The provincial government also states that health and safety inspectors and provincial offences officers will “increase inspections and enforcement at essential businesses in regional hot zones.”

In Ontario, since the beginning of the year, there have been 19,500 workplace inspections and investigations related to COVID-19. Over 450 related tickets have been issued. OHS inspectors have issued over 14,446 orders and stopped “unsafe work related to COVID-19” 24 times.

Will the province be expanding it’s vaccine distribution in addition to implementing the stay-at-home order?

As the provincial stay-at-home order comes into effect, the Ontario government also revealed that mobile teams are being organized to administer COVID-19 vaccines to high-risk congregate settings, residential buildings, faith-based locations, and locations occupied by large employers in hot spot neighbourhoods to individuals aged 18 or over.

Additionally, beginning on Friday, April 9 booking eligibility through the provincial system will be expanded to includes individuals 50 and older at mass immunization clinics in high-risk areas, identified by postal code.

Beginning next week, Ontario education workers who provide direct support to students with special education needs and all education workers in select “hot spot” areas can register for vaccination, with administration beginning during the April break, beginning on April 12.

These priority neighbourhoods will be in Toronto and Peel initially, with the Ontario government stating it will be expanded to areas in York, Ottawa, Hamilton, Halton and Durham, before extending across the whole province.

Is the provincial government going to institute a paid sick leave program?

Ford’s message to anyone “playing politics,” calling on the Ontario government to implement a paid sick leave program is to look to the federal government.

The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) allows Canadians to receive $450 a week (after taxes withheld) for a maximum of four weeks. This benefit is for employed and self-employed individuals who are unable to work because they are sick, need to self-isolate due to COVID-19 or have “an underlying health condition that puts them at greater risk of getting COVID-19.”

“Tell them to go and apply for the sick leave benefits,” Ford said. “There’s $750 million there, 300,0000 Ontarians have accessed the program already.”

“It’s the same tax payer.”