Ontario, Canada Declares Provincial Emergency and Imposes Stay-at-Home Order

On January 12, 2021, the Office of the Premier of Ontario announced that in response to modelling data showing the province is in a COVID-19 crisis and its hospitals’ Intensive Care Units will be overwhelmed in a few weeks, a second state of emergency was being declared along with a new stay-at-home order.  The second state of emergency was declared under s. 7.0.1(1) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA), effective immediately (the first was declared on March 17, 2020, and remained in effect until July 24, 2020). The stay-at-home order will take effect on Thursday, January 14, 2021 at 12:01 a.m.

A declaration of emergency automatically terminates 14 days after it is made unless it is terminated earlier or extended.  To determine whether to extend the declaration of emergency, Ontario will monitor key public health indicators.    

Stay-at-Home Order 

Effective January 14, 2021, everyone in Ontario will be required to remain at home to reduce daily contacts with those outside their immediate household, except for the following essential purposes:

  • To go to a grocery store or pharmacy;
  • To access health care services;
  • To exercise; and
  • For essential work. 

In addition, all businesses must ensure that any employee who can work from home, does so.

Additional Public Health Measures

The following additional public health measures will come into effect by January 14, 2021:

  • The restriction of outdoor organized public gatherings and social gatherings to five people, with limited exceptions.
  • Individuals must wear a mask or face covering in the indoor areas of businesses or organizations that are open. (Wearing a mask or face covering is recommended outdoors when individuals cannot physically distance more than two metres.)  
  • All non-essential retail stores, including hardware stores, alcohol retailers, and those offering curbside pickup or delivery, must open no earlier than 7 a.m. and close no later than 8 p.m.  (These restricted hours do not apply to stores that primarily sell food, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores, and restaurants for takeout or delivery.)
  • Non-essential construction is further restricted, including below-grade construction, exempting survey.

See Enhancing Public Health and Workplace Safety Measures in the Provincewide Shutdown dated January 12, 2021, for detailed information on the following topics:

  • General public health measures for all businesses, organizations and facilities;
  • Rules pertaining to organized public events, social gatherings, religious services, rites and ceremonies, post-secondary institutions, and day camps;
  • Businesses permitted to open and required mitigation measures;
  • Businesses required to close;
  • Sector-specific public health and workplace safety measures;

New Enforcement Measures


All enforcement and provincial offence officers, including the Ontario Provincial Police, local police forces, bylaw officers, and provincial workplace inspectors, will have authority to issue tickets to:

  • Individuals who do not comply with the stay-at-home order;
  • Individuals who do not wear a mask or face covering indoors; and
  • Retail operators and companies that do not enforce the indoor mask or face covering requirement.


Those who do not to abide by orders will be subject to set fines and/or prosecution under both the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act and the EMCPA.  

Temporary Closures

Enforcement personnel will have the authority to:

  • Temporarily close a premise and disperse individuals who are in contravention of an order; and
  • Disperse people who are gathering, regardless whether a premise has been closed or remains open such as a park or house.

Schools and Child Care Centres

In-person Instruction

Schools in the following public health units (PHUs) will not return to in-person instruction until February 10, 2021:

  • Windsor-Essex
  • Peel Region
  • Toronto
  • York
  • Hamilton

By January 20, 2021, the Chief Medical Officer of Health will advise the Ministry of Education which PHUs will be permitted to resume in-person instruction.  When in-person instruction resumes, before and after-school programs can be offered.

Schools in northern PHUs will continue to remain open.

New Health and Safety Measures for In-person Learning

The following new health and safety measures will be put in place for in-person learning province-wide:

  • Masking for grades 1-3 and requirements for mask wearing outdoors;
  • Enhanced screening protocols; and
  • Expanded targeted testing.

New Health and Safety Measures in Ontario Child Care Settings

New health and safety measures will be implemented in Ontario child care settings (in addition to those already in place), such as:

  • Enhanced screening to align with school requirements;
  • Voluntary participation in targeted testing and additional infection prevention; and
  • Control measures to align with schools.

These enhancements are in addition to the existing health and safety measures already being implemented in child care settings across the province.

Child care centres for non-school-aged children

Child care centres for non-school-aged children will remain open.

Emergency child care for school-aged children

Emergency child care for school-aged children will end in approved PHU regions on January 22, 2021 as these elementary schools return to in-person learning.

In areas where in-person elementary learning is suspended, emergency child care will continue for eligible families in regions subject to school closures that are identified by the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

Workplace Safety

The “Stay Safe All Day” campaign will be launched and will target:

  • Workplaces with reported COVID-19 outbreaks;
  • Manufacturing businesses;
  • Warehouses;
  • Distribution centres;
  • Food processing operations;
  • Construction projects; and
  • Publicly accessible workplaces deemed essential, e.g., grocery stores.

The campaign’s focus will be on:

  • Inspections in areas of high transmission (e.g., break rooms); and
  • Providing new educational materials to employers to promote safe behaviour before, during, and after work. 

In addition, there will be a focus on onsite inspections of long-term-care homes and retirement homes. 

The enhanced public health and workplace safety measures described above are expected to be in place until at least Thursday, February 11, 2021. 

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.