What are the emergency rules in Ontario because of the COVID-19 pandemic?Updated Apr 19

On April 8, 2021, Ontario declared a third state of emergency with a “stay at home” order. And on April 17, 2021, more restrictions took effect. These restrictions are expected to last until May 20, but this date may change. This means people must stay in their homes.

If you have questions about the emergency order, contact your local public health unit.

Stay-at-home order in effect

You can only leave your home for certain reasons such as:

  • buying food or medicine
  • seeking medical care, including getting the vaccine
  • going to court or to see a lawyer
  • exercising or taking your dog for a walk
  • going to work, that can’t be done remotely from home
  • going to school

All outdoor recreational facilities, such as golf courses, basketball courts, and soccer fields are closed. Playgrounds remain open.

You must:

  • wear a mask when inside buildings other than your home
  • stay at least 2 metres away from others when outdoors

You’re not allowed to gather indoors or outdoors with people you don’t live with. The only exception is for people who live alone, including single parents. These people are allowed to pick one other household that they can visit with.

Travel from Manitoba or Quebec into Ontario is restricted. There are some exceptions for things like:

  • going to work
  • getting medical care or social services
  • business transport of goods
  • exercising Indigenous or treaty rights
  • your primary residence is in Ontario or you’re moving to a new primary residence in Ontario
  • humanitarian or compassionate reasons, such as providing care or services to a person who needs help with their health

Schools

All schools will move to online learning.

Businesses

Businesses such as grocery stores, convenience stores, and pharmacies can open for in-person shopping at a maximum capacity of 25%. Discount and big box stores can only open for in-person shopping at a maximum capacity of 25% for “essential” items such as groceries, medicine, pet supplies, school supplies, and household cleaning supplies.

Some businesses must close. This includes personal care services such as hair salons, and theatres. Other non-essential businesses can open only for curb-side pickup and delivery during certain hours.

You can find a full list of the places allowed to open here.

Fines for breaking the rules

Any provincial offences officer can stop you and ask you to identify yourself if they have “reasonable and probable” grounds or reasons to believe you’re not following the emergency rules. They can also stop group gatherings and ask guests to leave.

Provincial offence officers include:

  • police officers
  • First Nations constables
  • special constables
  • municipal by-law enforcement officers

It is unclear whether the police and provincial offences officers can stop you on the street or while driving and ask you to give your home address and reason for not being home.

If you’re caught breaking the rules, you can be charged with one or more provincial offences. You might get a ticket or a summons that tells you to go to court. The minimum punishment for each provincial offence is:

  • a fine of $750, or
  • a fine of $1,000 if you tried to stop the officer from giving you or someone else a ticket.

The maximum punishment for each offence is one year in jail, or a fine of up to $100,000.

If you continue to break the rules, you can be charged with a separate offence for each day that you did not follow the rules.

Many municipalities have also passed their own by-laws with fines that may be different than the provincial amounts.

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