ontario lockdown

The new lockdown rules for Ontario have people really confused

Ontario was braced for Tuesday's announcement about new lockdown restrictions, expecting that the government might implement a radical curfew or more business closures in COVID hotspots or across the entire province.

What we got was, thankfully, a little less heavy-handed, but unfortunately a whole lot more confusing.

Residents are more than a little perplexed by the spate of new orders, which include the return of a State of Emergency, an official stay-at-home order, and lowered outdoor gathering limits.

Most were already under the impression that we were being directed to stay at home as much as humanly possible and only leave the house for "essential" trips for weeks now, and are especially befuddled by the fact that they are still able to gather with up to four people from other households outdoors — but ostensibly only for "essential" reasons, whatever those could be.

New, more limited operating hours announced for businesses are also a little confounding, as they dictate that "all non-essential retail stores... must open no earlier than 7 a.m. and close no later than 8 p.m."

But, all non-essential stores were forced to close for in-person service back when full lockdown began, which was on Nov. 23 for Toronto and Peel, Dec. 14 for York and Windsor-Essex, Dec. 21 for Hamilton and Dec. 26 for all of Ontario.

Some are wondering if non-essential stores can now reopen their doors (they can't), and how leaving the house for any type of non-essential shopping would be permitted under a stay-at-home order that asks the populace to "only go out only for essential trips to pick up groceries or go to medical appointments."

As per the provincial government's release on the topic, the non-essential stores that are seeing a reduction in potential opening hours include those that have been allowed to operate under the most recent iteration of lockdown, such as alcohol retailers.

All stores that have been offering curbside pickup and delivery services only must now limit their window for doing so to the hours mentioned above.

The more prohibitive hours notably do not apply to "essential" retailers, which are those that "primarily sell food, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores, and restaurants for takeout or delivery."

To many, the rules don't seem all that much different from those that citizens have been abiding by for weeks now, with a few exceptions.

Notably, students' return to in-person learning has been delayed until Feb. 10 for some public health units, while others will find out when they can get back into classrooms on Jan. 20. Childcare centres remain open.

Also, all non-essential construction is being "further restricted" — essentially, ceased — and the province has updated its list of what types of construction fall into this category.

With this much uncertainty about what the new lockdown means, people are particularly worried about how enforcement, which Premier Doug Ford said is being ramped up, will take place. But it looks like even the police are confused by the new directives and how they are to enforce them. 

Hopefully Ford and his team's clarification of the "legal parameters" of the stay-at-home order later today will help.

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