Ontario Govt. Announces Provincewide Shutdown

Monday December 21st, 2020

Posted at 1:34pm

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Last updated: Monday December 21st, 1:45pm

The Ontario Government has announced a province-wide shutdown set to take effect on Saturday, December 26th, 2020, at 12:01am.

Premier Doug Ford said the shutdown is “necessary to save lives and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed in the coming weeks.”

He noted in recent weeks hospitalizations have increased by 70 per cent and ICU admissions have climbed by 80 per cent.

“This provincewide shutdown, it’s a temporary, but one-time measure in response to the exceptional circumstances we’re facing,” Ford said. “We’re asking all Ontarians to stay at home and only leave when absolutely necessary, such as work, groceries, prescriptions, or medical appointments.”

Ford said the lockdown will last 14 days in Northern Ontario, and 28 days in Southern Ontario.

The Provincewide shutdown will put in place time-limited public health and workplace safety measures similar to those in other jurisdictions, the province says.

The province says measures include, but are not limited to:

  • Restricting indoor organized public events and social gatherings, except with members of the same household (the people you live with). Individuals who live alone may consider having exclusive close contact with one other household.
  • Prohibiting in-person shopping in most retail settings – curbside pickup and delivery can continue. Discount and big box retailers selling groceries will be limited to 25 per cent capacity for in-store shopping. Supermarkets, grocery stores and similar stores that primarily sell food, as well as pharmacies, will continue to operate at 50 per cent capacity for in-store shopping.
  • Restricting indoor access to shopping malls – patrons may only go to a designated indoor pickup area (by appointment only), essential retail stores that are permitted to be open (e.g. pharmacy, grocery store), or, subject to physical distancing and face covering requirements, to the food court for takeout purchases. Shopping malls may also establish outdoor designated pickup areas.
  • Prohibiting indoor and outdoor dining. Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments will be permitted to operate by take out, drive-through, and delivery only.

School Protocols

The province says all publicly funded and private elementary and secondary schools are to move to teacher-led remote learning when students return from the winter break on January 4th, 2021. They say this action is being taken in support of the Government’s broader efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Schools located in the following Public Health Unit regions can resume in-person instruction on January 11th, 2021 for both elementary and secondary students:

  • The District of Algoma Health Unit
  • North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit
  • Northwestern Health Unit
  • Porcupine Health Unit
  • Sudbury and District Health Unit
  • Thunder Bay District Health Unit
  • Timiskaming Health Unit

For schools in all other Public Health Unit regions, elementary school students are planned to be able to return to in-person learning on January 11th, 2021, and secondary school students will continue learning remotely until January 25th, 2021, at which point they may resume in-person learning. During this period, child care centres, authorized recreational and skill building programs and home-based child care services will remain open, the province says.

From January 4th to 8th, 2021, when elementary students move to remote learning, before and after school programs will be closed and emergency child care for health care and frontline workers will be provided. As part of the government’s efforts to protect the most vulnerable, boards will be required to make provisions for continued in-person support for students with special education needs who cannot be accommodated through remote learning for whom remote learning is challenging.

Lifting The Shutdown

The province says the shutdown will be evaluated throughout the 14 days in Northern Ontario and 28 days in Southern Ontario to determine if it is safe to lift any restrictions or if they need to be extended.

They say the Chief Medical Officer of Health will assess and apply lessons learned to the COVID-19 Response Framework to ensure appropriate and effective measures are in place to protect the health of Ontarians and enable economic recovery after the Provincewide Shutdown ends.

They say this will include an assessment of how a revised approach for the safe reopening of retail may be operationalized, according to the latest available evidence.

Ontario Small Business Support Grant

The province also announced the introduction of a small business support grant for businesses required to close or restrict services under the provincewide shutdown.

The grant will provide a minimum of $10,000 and up to $20,000 to eligible small business owners.

The government says small businesses will be able to use the grant for whatever way makes the most sense for their individual business. They say for example, some businesses will need support paying employee wages or rent, while others will need support maintaining their inventory.

The province says eligible small businesses include those that:

  • Are required to close or significantly restrict services subject to the Provincewide Shutdown effective 12:01am on December 26th, 2020;
  • Have less than 100 employees at the enterprise level; and
  • Have experienced a minimum of 20 per cent revenue decline in April 2020 compared to April 2019.

More information about the Ontario Small Business Support Grant is available here. Further details, including how to apply, will be announced in January 2021, the province says.

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