Ontario, Canada Removing Masking Requirement on March 21 in Most Settings and Ending All COVID-19 Public Health Measures on April 27

On March 1, 2022, Ontario moved to the Roadmap Exit Step, as amended. We provided a summary of the restrictions that were eliminated on that date and those that would continue to exist.

On March 9, 2022, Ontario released a Statement from Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) and a document called Living with and Managing COVID-19.  Both address how Ontario intends to lift the remaining public health and workplace safety measures.  Living with and Managing COVID-19 also provides new case and contact management and isolation requirement guidelines, which became effective on March 9, 2022.  We provide a summary of these changes and their effective dates below. 

  1. Lifting of Public Health and Safety Measures

March 14, 2022

Mandatory Vaccination Policies

Mandatory vaccination policies end with the revocation of:

  • Directive 6, which requires certain healthcare and community services organizations to implement and comply with a vaccination policy for their employees, staff, contractors, volunteers and students; 
  • Letters of instruction to Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility and Ministry of Education; and
  • Minister of Long-Term Care directive on immunization policy.    

The province will continue to provide rapid-antigen tests, and organizations can retain their own policies.

March 21, 2022

Masking Requirement

The mandatory masking requirement will be removed in most settings (including schools), except in the following select settings:

  • Public transit;
  • Healthcare settings;
  • Long-term care settings;
  • Shelters;
  • Jails; and
  • Congregate-care and living settings (including homes for individuals with developmental disabilities)

Ontario will continue to provide rapid-antigen tests and personal protective equipment (PPE) to schools, childcare facilities, and businesses.

School Measures

Measures in schools will be lifted (including cohorting and daily on-site screening).

The following measures will remain in schools:

  • Enhanced cleaning;
  • Optimizing air quality and ventilation; and
  • Absence reporting.

All Other Regulatory Requirements for Businesses

All other regulatory requirements for businesses will be removed, including passive screening and safety plans.

March 28, 2022

The Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020 (ROA) will expire.  There will be a final extension of the ROA emergency order for 30 days.  

April 27, 2022

Masking requirements in the remaining select settings (i.e., the settings excepted from the removal of the masking requirement on March 21) are removed.

Any remaining emergency orders under the ROA expire.

The following Directives are revoked:

  • Directive 1 (for healthcare providers and healthcare entities);
  • Directive 2.1 (for hospitals, psychiatric facilities, and regulated health professionals);
  • Directive 3 (for long-term care homes);
  • Directive 4 (for ambulance services and paramedics); and
  • Directive 5 (for hospitals and long-term care homes)

CMOH guidance and recommendations will be provided on Infection Protection and Control (IPAC) on an ongoing basis.   

Ontario will continue to provide rapid-antigen tests and PPE. 

  1. New Case and Contact Management and Isolation Guidelines

Non-household Close Contacts1

There are no isolation requirements for any groups. 

For 10 days after exposure, non-household close contacts should:

  • Self-monitor for symptoms;
  • Wear a mask and avoid activities where mask removal would be necessary;
  • Not visit anyone who is at high risk of illness (e.g., seniors); and
  • Not visit or attend work in highest-risk settings (unless they previously tested positive in the past 90 days).

Household Close Contacts

The following household members do not need to self-isolate but should follow the precautions listed above for 10 days:

  • Household members that have previously tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 90 days;
  • Household members that are 18 + and have received their booster shot; and
  • Household members that are under 18 years old and are fully vaccinated.

Household members that do not meet the above criteria must self-isolate as per previous requirements.2 

Immunocompromised Individuals

All immunocompromised individuals should isolate for 10 days but follow additional precautions (e.g., masking, and avoiding highest-risk settings and vulnerable individuals for an additional 10 days) (20 days total)).

Bottom Line for Employers

Employers that are eager to loosen the masking requirements may do so on March 21, provided they are not employers in the select settings where masking must continue.  On March 21, employers will also be relieved of the requirements to passively screen individuals entering their premises, and to prepare, post, and make available a written COVID-19 safety plan.  On April 27, all employers eager to loosen masking requirements will be free to do so. 

Employers should note, however, that despite the easing of these public health requirements, they:

  • Should not prevent individuals who wish to continue to wear a mask in the workplace from doing so; 
  • May continue to require or encourage their employees to wear masks in the workplace, passively screen individuals entering their premises, and prepare, post, and make their COVID-19 safety plans available; and
  • Must operate in accordance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its Regulations, including in accordance with the requirement under OHSA to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker.

Finally, employers should become familiar with the new isolation guidelines which became effective on March 9 to ensure that they will be able to guide employees accordingly. 

See Footnotes

1 A “close contact” is defined as “anyone you were less than two metres away from for at least 15 minutes, or multiple shorter lengths of time, without PPE in the 48 hours your symptoms began or your positive test result, whichever came first.”

2 Such requirements provide that in the case of Non-household Close Contacts, fully vaccinated individuals do not need to self-isolate; unvaccinated/immunocompromised individuals need to isolate for 10 days (or 5 days if under 12 years old); and individuals who tested positive in the past 90 days are exempt from isolation. In the case of Household Close Contacts, all household members need to self-isolate while the COVID-19 positive case/symptomatic individual is isolating (or for 10 days from the last exposure if immunocompromised).

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.