stay at home order

Here's what could change if a new stay-at-home order is implemented in Toronto

An official stay-at-home order for hotspot regions like Toronto, Peel and Ottawa is among the additional restrictions the Government of Ontario is currently considering bringing in just days after the onset of yet another provincewide shutdown.

Residents in T.O. have been advised to stay home as much as possible for more than a year now, and just progressed out of the last provincial stay-at-home order on March 8.

Now, we face the prospect of the return of this restriction, which is what some notoriously cautious health officials — namely, the medical officers of health of the aforementioned three regions — are calling for.

Under the last formal stay-at-home order, people were mandated to stay home for all but essential purposes, such as work if they are unable to work remotely, trips to the grocery store or pharmacy, medical appointments and outdoor exercise.

The public is also advised against all non-essential travel and region-hopping, both within Ontario and beyond, as well as close interactions with anyone they do not live with.

And, businesses have to make sure that any employee who can work from home does so.

But, all of this is complicated by the fact that things like "non-essential' retailers are open in this new iteration of lockdown, which they were not during the last stay-at-home-order that went into effect on January 14.

The province gave a detailed breakdown back then of which types of activities were considered "essential" and thus permitted under the order, such as the above activities, along with school or child care, assisting others, legal purposes, and obtaining goods and services.

Premier Doug Ford acknowledged that "how someone in downtown Toronto adheres to the stay-at-home order... will look very different than someone in a rural or remote area," though he also went as far as issuing pressing emergency alerts to remind constituents to stay inside their houses and "only go out if absolutely necessary."

Still, it was established that though citizens were being asked to stay home at all costs, police couldn't actually stop drivers to enforce the order, with Toronto Police Service saying "no element of any order provides police with the power to enter dwellings nor the authority to stop a vehicle for the singular purpose of checking compliance."

A house party, a business opening to an extent it shouldn't be under current lockdown rules, or similar direct contraventions of the Reopening Ontario Act, though, can definitely result in hefty fines.

Essentially, for those who have been heeding the now ubiquitous public health guidance to stay home as much as possible, not much will change if a stay-at-home order returns to the city, other than perhaps that oppressive feeling of knowing how locked down we have become yet again after hopes that we would be reopening.

That is, unless the province decides to enact even tighter measures — like new inter-region travel restrictions and enforcement of them, or the closure of certain retailers and other operations — which is definitely not out of the realm of possibilities at this juncture.

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