On January 3, 2022, the Ontario government announced that it will impose new public health restrictions by returning the province to a modified version of Step 2 of the province’s Roadmap to Reopen. The restrictions are to take effect on Wednesday, January 5, 2022 and last until at least January 26, 2022, subject to the status of public health indicators.
Of particular note to all employers, as of Wednesday, January 5, 2022, at 12:01AM, businesses and organizations will be required to ensure that their employees work remotely unless the nature of their work requires them to be on site.
Other restrictions that will also be implemented starting Wednesday, January 5, 2022 at 12:01 AM include:
- Social gathering limits will be reduced to five people indoors and 10 people outdoors;
- Organized public events will be limited to five people indoors;
- Indoor weddings, funerals, religious services, rites and ceremonies will be limited to 50 percent capacity of the particular room, while outdoor services will be limited to the number of people that can maintain two metres of distance;
- Retail settings, including shopping malls, will be limited to 50 percent capacity. At shopping malls, distancing will be required in lineups, loitering will not be permitted and food courts will be required to close;
- Personal care services will be limited to 50 percent capacity, while saunas, steam rooms and oxygen bars are to close;
- Indoor meeting and event spaces are to close with limited exceptions, while outdoor spaces will be permitted to remain open with restrictions;
- Public libraries will be limited to 50 percent capacity;
- Indoor dining at restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments is to close, while outdoor dining with restrictions, takeout, drive through, and delivery will be permitted;
- The sale of alcohol after 10 PM and the consumption of alcohol on-premises in businesses or settings after 11 PM will be restricted. Delivery and takeout, grocery/convenience stores and other liquor stores will be exempted;
- Indoor concert venues, theatres, and cinemas are to close, but rehearsals and recorded performances will be permitted with restrictions;
- Museums, galleries, zoos, science centres, landmarks, historic sites, botanical gardens and similar attractions, amusement parks and waterparks, tour and guide services and fairs, rural exhibitions and festivals are to close. Outdoor establishments will be permitted to open with restrictions and spectator occupancy will be limited to 50 percent capacity;
- Indoor horse racing tracks, car racing tracks and other similar venues are to close. Outdoor establishments will be permitted to open with restrictions and spectator occupancy limited to 50 percent capacity. Boat tours will be permitted at 50 percent capacity;
- Indoor sport and recreational facilities are to close, including gyms. Athletes training for the Olympics and Paralympics and select professional and elite amateur sport leagues will be exempted. Outdoor facilities will be permitted to operate with 50 percent capacity limits;
- All publicly funded and private schools will move to remote learning starting January 5, 2022 and will remain remote until at least January 17, 2022, subject to public health trends and operational considerations; and
- School buildings will be permitted to open for child care operations, to provide in-person instruction for students with special education needs who cannot be accommodated remotely and for staff who are unable to deliver quality instruction from home.
The Province also announced that while remote learning is in place, free emergency child care will be provided for school-aged children of health care and other eligible frontline workers. Hospitals will also be instructed to pause all non-emergent and non-urgent surgeries and procedures.
An expansion of the recently implemented Ontario Business Costs Rebate Program was also announced. Under this program, eligible businesses that are required to close or reduce capacity will receive rebates on a portion of the property tax and energy costs they incur while subject to these measures. This includes a 50 percent rebate for businesses subject to 50 percent capacity limits, and a 100 percent rebate for businesses required to close for indoor activities. Applications for the program will open later this month.
The Provincial Government is also providing up to $7.5 billion for a six-month interest-and penalty-free period for Ontario businesses to make payments on most provincially-administered taxes.
No other supports were announced, but the Province stated it is exploring the possibility of providing further supports.
If you have any questions about this topic, other COVID-19 related questions, or any questions relating to workplace law generally, please do not hesitate to contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer or refer to the Firm’s other COVID-19 website resources.