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.
Last May, Ontario released its Roadmap to Reopen, a three-step plan to safely and gradually reopen the province and loosen certain public health restrictions. In July, Ontario filed O. Reg. 541/21, which added a new “Roadmap Exit Step.” On February 25, 2022, Ontario filed Regulation 99/22 and Regulation 100/22, which provide that, effective March 1, 2022, all of Ontario will move to the Roadmap Exit Step, as amended. These regulations were made under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020.
Below we provide a summary of the restrictions that are eliminated and those that will continue to exist, in accordance with the amended Roadmap Exit Step.
What restrictions are eliminated at the Roadmap Exit Step, as amended?
Although there will be some exceptions, on March 1, 2022, most rules and restrictions put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic will be eliminated, including:
- Most sector-specific rules;
- Capacity limits;
- Physical-distancing requirements;
- Attendance limits for organized events and social gatherings;
- The requirement to actively screen workers;
- The proof of vaccination requirement; and
- The requirement to collect and maintain contact information.
What restrictions will exist during the Roadmap Exit Step, as amended?
The following restrictions will continue:
Operation in Compliance with Applicable Laws
Businesses and organizations must operate in accordance with all applicable laws, including the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its Regulations.
Operation in Compliance with Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health
Businesses must comply with advice, recommendations, and instructions issued by:
- The Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, including with respect to any advice, recommendations and instructions on:
- Physical distancing, cleaning or disinfecting;
- Establishing, implementing and ensuring compliance with a COVID-19 vaccination policy and setting out the precautions and procedures that must be included in that policy; or
- Screening individuals by, among other things, posting signs at all entrances to the premises, in a conspicuous location visible to the public, that inform individuals on how to screen themselves for COVID-19 prior to entering the premises. The safety plan must describe this passive screening measure and how it will be implemented.
- A local public health official before February 25, 2022, except where it relates to a COVID-19 vaccination policy.
Subject to certain exceptions (including, but not limited to exceptions for persons who are being accommodated in accordance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, persons being reasonably accommodated in accordance with the Human Rights Code, and persons performing work for the business or organization in an area not accessible to members of the public and able to maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from every other person while in the indoor area), masks or face coverings will continue to be required for any person in an indoor area of a business’ or organization’s premises, or in a vehicle that is operating as part of the business or organization; however, employers will no longer be required to ensure that:
- Workers who temporarily remove a mask to consume food or drink are separated from every other person by at least two metres, or plexiglass or some other impermeable barrier; and
- Workers wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) that protects their eyes, nose and mouth if they provide services to unmasked persons who come within two metres in an indoor area and they are not separated by an impermeable barrier.
As noted above, businesses will be required to passively screen individuals by posting signs at all entrances to the premises, in a conspicuous location visible to the public, that inform individuals how to screen themselves for COVID-19 prior to entering the premises. As noted below, the safety plan must describe this passive screening measure and how it will be implemented.
It will continue to be the case that no later than seven days after a requirement first applies, an employer must prepare, post, and make available a written safety plan describing the measures that have been or will be implemented in the business to reduce the transmission risk of COVID-19, including health screening and requiring masks or face coverings. There is no longer a requirement that the safety plan refer to the wearing of PPE.
Long-term Care Homes
Despite anything set out in the Roadmap Exit Step, directives, policies or guidance that apply to a long-term care home within the meaning of the Long-Term Care Homes Act, 2007, issued by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, the Minister of Long-Term Care or the Ministry of Long-Term Care, still apply.
Cannabis Retail Stores, Day Camps, Overnight Camps, and Schools
Rules in the Roadmap Exit Step that are specific to cannabis retail stores, day camps, overnight camps, and schools, discussed in detail here, continue to apply.
Bottom Line for Employers
As we have seen over the last two years since the COVID-19 pandemic began, it is difficult to predict what tomorrow might bring. We will follow any developments that may occur and provide an update should it be appropriate.