Coronavirus | Health & Safety | Ontario

Ontario’s new COVID-19 Response Framework structured to help keep retail open

November 5, 2020

Ontario released its Keeping Ontario Safe and Open Framework earlier this week.

Retail Council of Canada has been encouraging the Ontario Government to issue front-facing direction, like the new COVID-19 Response Framework, to support our members in planning for Q4 and Q1 2021. The new colour code system brings clarity that – while there may be additional restrictions on retail business in hotspot zones – retailers can remain open for business. Even in a full “lockdown”, retailers with external facing entrances may still remain open.

RCC views this new guidance as reassuring. While we continue to ask for some more details around mall screening questions, capacity limits in retail, and clarity around which Stage 1 rules will be used for a full “lockdown”, preliminary information with respect to those details can be found below:

  • Prevent (Green):
    • As Stage 3, outlined in O. Reg 364/20 – a broad set of activities are allowed, including eating indoors at restaurants, attending movie theatres and gyms.
    • Fitting rooms restrictions such as only non-adjacent rooms may be utilized at any time.
    • Line-ups outside of stores must be managed so that all customers are physically distanced (2 metres) with face coverings (with exemption rules for medical, etc.).
  • Protect (Yellow):
    • Nothing additional beyond what is stated in “Prevent (Green)” with respect to fitting rooms & line-ups.
  • Restrict (Orange):
    • Requirement for retailers to limit the number of occupants. RCC is still seeking clarity, though initial conversations state requirement is to limit customers to a level where they can physically distance (2 metres) in store.
    • For Malls – new customer screening protocols are in place. RCC is still seeking clarity, though initial conversations state requirement is similar to screening requirements for retailers of staff (click here for screening rules).
  • Control (Red):
    • For retailers with dining/tables for customers – all indoor dining is closed.
    • As stated in “Restricted (Orange)” for all other retailers.
  • Lockdown (Grey):
    • As Stage 1, outlined in O. Reg 82/20 – while most will recall Stage 1 as a regulation that closed all but grocery and pharmacy, O. Reg 82/20 was amended days before the release of Stage 2.
    • The regulation, as written today, allows all retailers with an external facing entrance to remain open (with occupancy rules that state the retailer can only have the number of customers in the store that would allow shoppers to physically distance by 2 metres).

As of November 7, 2020, the province will transition public health unit regions to the new framework. Also on November 7, 2020, Ottawa, Peel, and York Region will move out of the modified Stage 2 and into the Restrict (Orange) category. Toronto will move into the Restrict (Orange) category one week later, on November 14, 2020.

Going forward, the government will continually assess the impact of public health measures applied to public health unit regions for 28 days, or two COVID-19 incubation periods.

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