april lockdown ontario

Here are the rules for the April 2021 emergency brake lockdown in Ontario

Ontario returns to lockdown for April 2021 less than one week after modifying rules to allow for patio dining in hot spot regions like Toronto and Peel. 

In what has become a common theme, Ontario's government is once again changing up restrictions across the entire province to combat COVID-19.

This time around, the 14.5 million people of Ontario get a four-week-long "emergency brake" shutdown that will plunge all 34 public health regions into a period of mass closures similar to that which we experienced after Boxing Day, but with small retail stores still allowed to operate at 25 per cent capacity.

Effective Saturday, April 3, at 12:01 a.m., all indoor bars, restaurants, cafes, gyms, hair salons, barber shops and other personal care services will be forced to close in regions where such things are currently permitted.

In Toronto, not a whole lot will change, save for gathering limits (they're lower), outdoor exercise classes (they're banned again) and outdoor dining privileges (bye bye, patios.)

"We are facing a serious situation and drastic measures are required to contain the rapid spread of the virus, especially the new variants of concern," said Premier Doug Ford when announcing the lockdown on Thursday.

"I know pulling the emergency brake will be difficult on many people across the province, but we must try and prevent more people from getting infected and overwhelming our hospitals."

Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, is asking all residents of the province to "limit trips outside the home to necessities such as food, medication, medical appointments, supporting vulnerable community members, or exercising outdoors with members of their household."

In terms of actual rules — legal rules that you can be fined for breaking under the Reopening Ontario Act — you can find them below.

Here are the full rules for Ontario's new emergency brake lockdown when it kicks in on April 3:

For businesses, organizations and facilities

Work from home except where necessary

Each person responsible for a business or organization that is open shall ensure that any person who performs work for the business or organization conducts their work remotely, with limited exception, for instance, where the nature of their work requires them to be on-site at the workplace.

Physical distancing and line management

Businesses must not permit patrons to line up inside, or to line up or congregate outside, unless they:

  • maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from others
  • wear a mask or face covering (with some exceptions)

Businesses or organizations must operate in compliance with the advice, recommendations instructions issued by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health on screening individuals.

For patrons

Businesses must implement passive screening for patrons by posting signs at all entrances informing people to screen themselves for COVID-19 before entry. 

Active screening is required in accordance with instructions by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health. Where this is required, it is noted in the sections below.

For workers

Workplaces must screen all workers or visitors entering the work environment. See the COVID-19 Screening Tool for Workplaces for more information.

Personal protective equipment including eye protection

Everyone must wear a mask or face covering that covers their mouth, nose and chin inside any business or place that is open (with some exceptions).

Workers must wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) that protects their eyes, nose and mouth, if in the course of providing services they are:

  • required to come within 2 metres of another person who is not wearing a mask or face covering
  • in an indoor area and are not separated by plexiglass or some other impermeable barrier
Capacity limits

In person shopping permitted for all retail, subject to ability to maintain two metres of physical distancing and capacity limits of:

  • 50 per cent for supermarkets and other stores that primarily sell groceries, convenience stores and pharmacies
  • 25 per cent for all other retail, including discount and big box retailers, liquor stores, cannabis stores, hardware stores and garden centres

All businesses or facilities that engage in retail sales to the public must post a sign in a location visible to the public that states the maximum capacity they are permitted to operate under.

Cleaning and disinfection

Open businesses must ensure that equipment, washrooms, locker rooms, change rooms and showers that are accessible to the public are cleaned and disinfected as frequently as is necessary to maintain a sanitary condition.

Face coverings

Businesses or organizations must ensure that patrons and workers wear masks or face coverings indoors, with limited exceptions.

Safety plans

Open businesses must prepare and make available a COVID-19 safety plan. A copy of the plan must be made available to any person for review upon request, and be posted where it would come to the attention of individuals working in or attending the business.

For individuals
Physical distancing

Everyone must maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from others (except for caregivers or other members of their household) in a place of business or facility that is open to the public.

Face coverings

Everyone must wear a mask or face covering that covers their mouth, nose and chin in indoor public spaces (with limited exceptions).

Accessing closed indoor and outdoor recreational amenities

Accessing closed indoor and outdoor recreational amenities is not allowed.

Organized public events and social gatherings

Events and gatherings
  • Indoor organized public events and social gatherings are not allowed, except with members of the same household (the people you live with).
  • Individuals who live alone and single parents may consider having exclusive, close contact with another household to help reduce the negative impacts of social isolation.
  • Outdoor organized public events and social gatherings must comply with public health advice on physical distancing and have no more than 5 people.
Weddings, funerals and other religious services, rites or ceremonies
  • physical distancing must be maintained
  • guests must wear masks or face coverings
  • capacity limits of 15 per cent indoors, and "the number of people that can maintain two metres physical distance from each other" outdoors.
  • Drive-in services, rites or ceremonies permitted, subject to certain conditions. Virtual services permitted.

Businesses that can open and relevant restrictions

Supply chain

Businesses allowed to open if they supply essential:

  • support
  • products
  • supplies
  • systems
  • services, including processing, packaging, warehousing, distribution, delivery and maintenance
Meeting or event spaces

Only permitted to open for:

  • child care centres and authorized recreational and skill building programs (as described in the Child Care and Early Years Act, 2014)
  • court services
  • government services
  • mental health and addictions support services (for example, Alcoholics Anonymous), permitted to a maximum of 10 people
  • social services
  • collective bargaining, so long as more than ten people are permitted to occupy the rented space

Contact information recording required, with the exception of court services.

Restaurants, bars, and other food or drink establishments

Take out, drive through, and delivery permitted only (includes the sale of alcohol).

Night clubs and strip clubs only permitted to open if they operate as a food or drink establishment.

Supermarkets, convenience stores, indoor farmer’s markets and other stores that primarily sell food
  • Open for in-person retail (50 per cent capacity where two metres physical distancing can be maintained)
  • curbside pick-up
  • delivery
  • Open for in-person retail (50 per cent capacity, where two metres physical distancing can be maintained)
  • curbside pick-up
  • delivery
All other retail (including liquor, cannabis, hardware and pet stores)
  • Open for in-person retail (25 per cent capacity, where two metres physical distancing can be maintained)
  • curbside pick-up
  • delivery
Shopping malls

Open, with the following conditions:

  • maximum capacity 25% per store, where two metres physical distancing can be maintained
  • inside dining spaces closed (includes food courts)
  • music must be low enough for normal conversation to be possible
  • indoor shopping malls must actively screen patrons in accordance with the advice, recommendations and instructions of the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health before they enter
Motor vehicle sales
  • Includes cars, trucks and motorcycles; recreational vehicles including motor homes; trailers and travel trailers; boats and other watercraft; and other motorized vehicles, including power-assisted bicycles, golf carts, scooters, snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles
  • Members of the public must not be permitted where products are neither sold nor displayed for sale
  • Subject to certain conditions related to test drives, including limited to no more than 10 minutes and a maximum of two people, including up to one sales representative permitted.

Permitted services include:

  • rental and leasing services, including automobile, commercial and light industrial machinery and equipment rental
  • gas stations and other fuel suppliers
  • automated and self-service car washes
  • laundromats and drycleaners
  • snow clearing and landscaping services
  • security services for residences, businesses and other properties
  • domestic services to support children, seniors or vulnerable persons, including housekeeping, cooking, indoor and outdoor cleaning and maintenance services
  • vehicle and equipment repair and essential maintenance and vehicle and equipment rental services
  • courier, postal, shipping, moving and delivery services
  • funeral and related services
  • staffing services including providing temporary help
  • veterinary services and other businesses that provide pet services and for the health and welfare of animals, including farms, boarding kennels, stables, animal shelters, research facilities, pet groomers, pet sitters, pet walkers, pet trainers (including for service animals)
Hotels, motels, lodges, cabins, cottages, resorts student residences and other shared rental accommodations
  • Indoor pools, fitness centres or other recreational facilities closed.
Short-term rentals

Short-term rentals (for example, cottages, cabins) are only to be provided to individuals who are in need of housing.

With the exception of exercising an Aboriginal or treaty right, ice fishing huts may:

  • only be used by to members of the same household
  • not be used overnight
Seasonal campgrounds

Campsites must be made available only for trailers and recreational vehicles that are:

  • used by individuals who are in need of housing
  • permitted to be there by the terms of a full season contract

Only campsites with electricity, water services and facilities for sewage disposal may be provided.

All recreational facilities in the campground and all other shared facilities in the campground, other than washrooms and showers, must be closed.

Other areas of the campground must be closed to the general public (may only be opened for preparing the seasonal campground for reopening).

Post-secondary institutions

Post-secondary institutions open for virtual instruction, with limited exceptions where in-person instruction is required (e.g., clinical training, trades). Subject to physical distancing with limited exceptions.

In-person teaching (each instructional space at the institution at one time) and in-person examinations cannot exceed 10 persons, with limited exemptions for:

  • diagnostic cardiac sonography and diagnostic medical sonography
  • diagnostic ultrasound
  • medical imaging
  • medical laboratory assistant and Medical laboratory technician
  • medical radiation technology
  • medicine
  • mental health and addictions services, including psychology services, social work services and counselling services
  • nursing
  • paramedic
  • personal support worker, supportive care worker, home care worker or a similar occupation
  • pharmacy/pharmacy technician
  • public health inspector, if the program is accredited by the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors
  • rehabilitation sciences (nutrition, speech language pathology, occupational science, and physiotherapy)
  • respiratory therapy

Additional requirements for in-person teaching that involves singing or the playing of brass or wind instruments.

Financial services

Financial services that are permitted include:

  • capital markets and related securities trading and advisory services
  • banking/credit union activities including credit intermediation
  • insurance
  • land registration services
  • pension and benefits payment services
  • financial services including payroll and payment processing and accounting and tax services
Real estate (including pre-sale construction)

No open houses – showing a property permitted by appointment only.

Telecommunications and IT infrastructure/service providers

Permitted businesses include:

  • information technology (IT) services, including online services, software products and the facilities necessary for their operation and delivery
  • telecommunications providers and services (phone, internet, radio, cell phones etc.) and facilities necessary for their operation and delivery
  • newspapers, radio and television broadcasting

Maintenance, repair and property management services that manage and maintain the safety, security, sanitation and operation of institutional, commercial, industrial and residential properties and buildings are allowed.

Transportation services

Permitted services include:

  • transportation services provided by air, water, road, and rail, including taxis and other private transportation providers
  • support services for transportation services, including logistical support, distribution services, warehousing and storage, truck stops and tow operators
  • services that support the operations and safety of transportation systems including maintenance and repairs
  • marinas, boating clubs and other organizations that maintain docking facilities (with conditions)
  • businesses that provide and support online retail, including by providing warehousing, storage and distribution of goods that are ordered online
In-person driving instruction

In-person driving instruction only permitted for:

  • instruction for drivers of commercial motor vehicles
  • the Ontario Driver Certification Program (administered by the Ministry of Transportation), for motor vehicles for which a class of driver’s licence other than Class G, G1, G2, M, M1 or M2 is required
  • motor vehicles for which an air brake endorsement is required
  • students at private career colleges, in accordance with certain conditions

Businesses are permitted if they:

  •  extract, manufacture, process and distribute goods, products, equipment and materials, including businesses that manufacture inputs to other manufacturers (for example primary metal/steel, blow molding, component manufacturers and chemicals that feed the end-product manufacturer), regardless of whether those other manufacturers are inside or outside of Ontario
  •  support and facilitate the movement of goods within integrated North American and global supply chains
Agriculture and food production

Businesses are allowed if they:

  • produce food and beverages, agricultural products (including plants), including by farming, harvesting, aquaculture, hunting and fishing
  • process, manufacture or distribute food, beverages, crops, agricultural products, animal products and by-products
  • support the food or agricultural products supply chains and the health and safety of food, animals and plants

Construction activities or projects and related supporting services, including demolition and land surveying, are allowed.

Resources and energy

Businesses that provide and ensure the domestic and global continuity of supply of resources are allowed, including:

  • resource exploration
  • mining
  • forestry
  • aggregates
  • petroleum and petroleum by-products
  • chemicals
  • electricity generation, transmission, distribution and storage
  • natural gas distribution, transmission and storage
Community services

Businesses that deliver or support the delivery of community services are allowed, including:

  • sewage treatment and disposal
  • waste collection, transport, storage, processing, disposal or recycling
  • potable drinking water
  • critical infrastructure repair and maintenance including roads, dams, bridges
  • environmental rehabilitation, management and monitoring, and spill clean-up and response
  • administrative authorities that regulate and inspect businesses
  • professional and social services that support the legal and justice system
  • policing and law enforcement
  • fire and emergency services
  • paramedics
  • coroner and pathology services
  • corrections and court services
  • licences and permits
  • allotment gardens or community gardens
Facilities for sports and recreational fitness activities

Only open for:

  • identified high-performance athletes, including parasport athletes training and competing for the next Olympics/Paralympics, and specified professional leagues (for example, NHL and AHL
  • child care, mental health and addiction support services, social services or other specified purposes (includes community centres and multi-purpose facilities, such as YMCA) – 10 people maximum
  • access to physical therapy for a person with a disability (as defined in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005)
Outdoor recreational amenities

Outdoor recreational amenities permitted to open, subject to conditions, include:

  • parks and recreational areas
  • baseball diamonds
  • batting cages
  • soccer, football and sports fields
  • tennis, platform tennis, table tennis and pickleball courts
  • basketball courts
  • BMX parks
  • skate parks
  • frisbee golf locations
  • cycling tracks and bike trails
  • horse riding facilities
  • shooting ranges, including those operated by rod and gun clubs
  • ice rinks
  • tobogganing hills
  • snowmobile, cross country, dogsledding, ice-skating and snow-shoe trails
  • playgrounds
  • portions of parks or recreational areas containing outdoor fitness equipment
  • golf courses and driving ranges
  • ski hills

A permitted outdoor recreational amenity may only open if:

  • physical distance of at least two metres can be maintained
  • team sports, or other sports or games where people may come within two metres of each other, are not practiced or played
  • locker rooms, change rooms, showers and clubhouses remain closed (except for access to equipment storage, washrooms or first aid)

Businesses and organizations that maintain research facilities and engage in research, including medical research and other research and development activities, are permitted.

Health care and social services


  • organizations and providers that deliver home care services or personal support services to seniors and persons with disabilities
  • regulated health professionals
  • professionals or organizations that provide in-person counselling services
  • organizations that provide health care, including retirement homes, hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, independent health facilities, mental health and addictions counselling supports
  • laboratories and specimen collection centres
  • manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors and retailers of pharmaceutical products and medical supplies, including medications, medical isotopes, vaccines and antivirals, medical devices, medical supplies
  • manufacturers, distributors and businesses that provide logistical support for products and services that support the delivery of health care
  • organizations that provide critical personal support services in home or residential services for individuals with physical disabilities
  • organizations that support the provision of food, shelter, safety or protection or social services and other necessities of life to economically disadvantaged and other vulnerable individuals
  • businesses that are primarily engaged in the provision of health and safety training (with conditions)
Media industries


  • sound recording, production, publishing and distribution businesses
  • commercial film and television production, including all supporting activities such as hair, makeup and wardrobe – with the following conditions:
  • no studio audiences permitted to be on the film or television set
  • no more than 50 performers may be on the film or television set
  • the film or television set may be located in any business or place, including any business or place that is otherwise required to be closed
  • set must be configured and operated in such a way as to enable persons on the set to maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from other persons, except where necessary for the filming of the film or television production
  • hair or makeup services providers must wear appropriate personal protective equipment
  • singers and players of brass or wind instruments must be separated from any other performers by plexiglass or some other impermeable barrier
  • the person responsible for the film or television production must ensure that the production operates in accordance with the guidance document titled “Film and television industry health and safety during COVID-19” issued by the Film and Television Health and Safety Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development, as amended from time to time.
  • film and television postproduction, visual effects and animation studios
  • book and periodical production, publishing and distribution businesses
  • commercial and industrial photography
  • interactive digital media businesses, including computer system software or application developers and publishers and video game developers and publishers

Circulating materials must be reserved over the telephone or online for contactless curbside, delivery or pick-up.

Patrons must only be permitted to enter the premises to facilitate the contactless drop-off and pick-up or access computers, photocopiers or similar services.

Patrons must not:

  • be in the book stacks
  • handle circulating materials that are shelved or in other areas of library storage

Circulating materials returned to the library must be disinfected or quarantined before they are recirculated.

Other permitted services include:

  • child care services
  • mental health and addiction support services, to a limit of 10 people
  • social services
Businesses not permitted to open
  • Amusement parks, water parks
  • Bathhouses and sex clubs
  • Casinos, bingo halls and gaming establishments
  • Concert venues, theatres and cinemas (includes drive in or drive through events)
  • Day camps
  • Horse racing (open for training only, no races or spectators)
  • Motorsports
  • Museums and cultural amenities
  • Personal care services
  • Tour and guide services
  • Zoos and aquariums (permitted to operate for the care of animals)
Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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