Coronavirus | Ontario

Clarifying lockdown expectations in Ontario

January 19, 2021

Over the weekend, the Ontario government issued a 30-day extension to the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020 (or, the “ROA”). RCC wants to clarify what this means, and what member expectations should be with all the extensions and emergency orders being issued over the past few days.

On Boxing Day, Ontario started a 28-day lockdown (originally, only 14-days for the northern health units, however, a change moved that lockdown in line with the southern health units). That was planned to end on January 23, 2021. Originally, following the lifting of the lockdown order, health units would have moved into various zones based on health data. Some likely would remain in lockdown (e.g. Toronto, Peel) while others would be downgraded to lesser restrictive zones.

This weekend, the ROA was extended to February 19, 2021. That legislative framework extension should be viewed not as an extension to the lockdown, but as a renewal of the vehicle that the Ontario government is using to renew/create regulations during the pandemic. We expect this to renew every 30 days for 30 days.

That said, we should caution retailers against planning for an end to the lockdown on January 23, 2021. With a newly announced stay-at-home order in place, ending February 11, 2021, retailers should expect to see lockdown orders extended at least until that date as this aligns with the government’s objective of minimizing people’s movement within public spaces.

Retailers (specifically non-essential businesses) have borne the brunt of government lockdown measures to date, and so we were relieved to see the government shifted its focus to the real source of the problem last week by enacting a stay-at-home order.

RCC continues to share academic research with the government to demonstrate that business can reopen safely. We know from Stanford University’s best practice research that customer density is of great importance in flattening the curve and reducing COVID-19 infections. Their research demonstrates that a reduction in occupancy to 20% has substantially lower economic costs AND is more effective at slowing the spread of COVID-19 due to fewer high-density shopping periods, thus the reason why we first proposed such an approach to government decision-makers in mid-November, 2020. We continue to advocate so that all non-essential retailers can re-open, with strict occupancy rules, to serve customers across the province in a safe and healthy environment.

RCC encourages members and their staff to continue to support this cause by supporting our letter writing campaign (with its easy-to-fill-out and find-your-MPP tool). Click here to send your MPP a letter encouraging Ontario to implement the researched best practice.

For more information, please contact Sebastian Prins, Director, Government Relations (Ontario), RCC, at sprins@retailcouncil.org.

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