There is finally some good news for Ontario small businesses. The province will be gradually lifting its Stay-at-Home order. It would allow more non-essential retail businesses to safely re-open with restrictions, even in a lockdown.
Ontario premier Doug Ford announced on February 8, 2021, that the province will slowly move each region from the current shutdown to a revised COVID-19 Response Framework: Keeping Ontario Safe and Open when it is safe to do so.
What will be the criteria for lifting the Stay-at-Home order?
The decision for each public health unit will be based on health indicators such as a lowering transmission rate, hospital capacity, and available public health resources to conduct rapid case and contact management.
When will the regions transition to the colour-coded Framework?
On February 10, 2021, the following three regions will move back to the Framework’s Green-Prevent level:
- Hastings Prince Edward Public Health
- Kingston, Frontenac, and Lennox & Addington Public Health
- Renfrew County and District Health Unit
The current Stay-at-Home order will be amended for each region. The order will be in force in 28 public health units until February 16, 2021, and in Toronto, Peel and York regions till February 22, 2021.
The province intends to lift the Stay-at-Home order in these regions after these dates based on a review of the local public health indicators in the weeks that follow.
Can we still go back into a lockdown?
Yes. With the threat of the new COVID-19 variants looming, the province plans to put an “emergency brake”, if needed, and send a region back to the Grey-Lockdown level. This will be done in cases where a region sees a sharp increase in COVID-19 transmission or if the health care system of the region is in the danger of being overburdened.
Has the state of emergency been lifted?
The provincial emergency will no longer be in effect after February 9, 2021. However, the province strongly advises Ontarians, irrespective of the colour level their region may be in, to:
- Continue to stay home as much as possible
- Avoid social gatherings
- Limit close contacts to household members
- Avoid travel except for essential reasons
- Businesses should allow staff to work from home, where possible
What major changes will be made to the Grey-Lockdown restrictions?
The government announced that it would be easing some restrictions in the Grey-Lockdown level to help small businesses. These include allowing in-person shopping at all retail stores.
Essential stores such as supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores and pharmacies would have a 50% capacity limit. All other retail stores will have a 25% capacity limit. This includes big box retailers, liquor stores, hardware stores and garden centres. All stores will be required to post capacity limit publicly.
Indoor recreational facilities will remain shut. Outdoor recreational facilities, such as ice rinks and trails, will be allowed to open with restrictions.
Do you need guidance reopening your business in compliance with the new rules?
Our experts can help you develop company policies as well as with any other HR, health and safety, or employment advice you may need. See how we have helped other small and medium businesses get their business compliant with provincial legislation.