ontario lockdown

Here are the rules and restrictions for the province-wide lockdown in Ontario

Premier Doug Ford announced today that the province will be imposing an Ontario-wide shutdown as of Saturday, Dec. 26  at 12:01 a.m. in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, and it'll include all the rules and restrictions outlined in the Grey-Lockdown level of the province's framework and then some.

The move comes as health experts throughout the province have been pleading with the government to take swift and stringent action as cases have continued to skyrocket and hospital capacity has reached alarming levels.

"The number of daily cases continue to rise putting our hospitals and long-term care homes at risk," said Ford in a news release outlining the details of the shutdown.

"We need to stop the spread of this deadly virus. That's why, on the advice of Dr. Williams and other health experts, we are taking the difficult but necessary decision to shutdown the province and ask people to stay home. Nothing is more important right now than the health and safety of all Ontarians."

The move means the rest of the province will join Toronto, Peel Region, York Region, Hamilton and Windsor-Essex in lockdown after Christmas, and this province-wide shutdown also includes a handful of additional requirements not originally mentioned in the Grey-Lockdown level of the province's framework.

First and foremost, all indoor organized public events and social gatherings — except with members of the same household (the people you live with) — will be banned, though individuals who live alone can have close contact with one other household.

In-person shopping will also be prohibited in most retail settings, though 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, while 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.

Stores that sell beer, wine and liquor will also be able to offer in-person shopping as long as capacity is limited to 25 per cent. 

Though previously allowed to offer in-store shopping during lockdown, hardware stores will only be permitted to offer curbside pickup and delivery once the shutdown takes effect. 

Personal care services, casinos, zoos, and museums will also have to shutter, while libraries will be allowed to remain open for curbside pickup.

Indoor access to shopping malls will likewise be restricted, and patrons will only be allowed to enter to 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.

The province says shopping malls may establish outdoor designated pickup areas if they so choose.

All indoor and outdoor dining throughout Ontario will also be forced to shut down, and restaurants and bars will only be permitted to operate by take out, drive-through, and delivery.

All ski hills throughout Ontario will also have to close for the duration of the shutdown. 

The government's COVID-19 Response Framework will be paused when the shutdown comes into effect, and the impact of these strict measures will be reevaluated after 14 days in Northern Ontario and 28 days in Southern Ontario. Health officials will determine at that point whether it is safe to lift them or if they need to be extended.

All Ontario schools will also move to remote learning on Jan. 4, when students return from the winter break, and publicly-funded schools in northern public health regions are allowed to resume in-person learning on Jan. 11.

Elementary schools in Southern Ontario will also be able to resume in-person learning on Jan. 11, but secondary students in Southern Ontario won't be allowed to return to school until Jan. 25. 

The province is also asking all residents to stay home as much as possible unless they have to leave for essential reasons, and they're requesting that people refrain from travelling between regions unless absolutely necessary. 

"This was not an easy decision before the holidays, but we have reached a tipping point," said Health Minister Christine Elliott in the release.

"We continue to see sharp increases in hospitalizations and occupancy in intensive care units is reaching concerning levels. Urgent action must be taken to prevent our health care system from becoming overwhelmed. By implementing a Provincewide Shutdown, we can work to stop the virus in its tracks, safeguard hospital capacity, and save lives."

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