COVID-19: New Rules for Fall 2020 and Extension of Emergency Orders

In response to a steady increase in Covid-19 cases in recent weeks the Ontario government has announced new restrictions on social gatherings, the extension of Emergency Orders for another 30 days, the expansion of public health powers and a fall Covid-19 Plan.  The details of these developments are summarized below:

Restrictions on Social Gatherings

Unmonitored and private social gatherings across the province are now subject to tighter restrictions and heftier fines for breach. Private gatherings include but are not limited to functions, parties, dinners, gatherings, BBQs and wedding receptions held in private residences, backyards, parks and other recreational areas. The new limits being imposed are:

    • 10 people for an indoor event or gathering (previous limit was 50 people)
    • 25 people at an outdoor event or gathering (previous limit was 100 people)

Indoor and outdoor events also cannot be merged. These limits became effective September 19, 2020.

It is important to note that the new limits will not apply to events or gatherings in staffed businesses and facilities such as:

    • Bars;
    • restaurants;
    • cinemas;
    • convention centres;
    • banquet halls
    • gyms;
    • places of worship; or
    • recreational sporting or performing art events.

Existing rules, including public health and workplace safety measures for these businesses and facilities remain in effect.

Expansion of Covid-19 Powers for Public Health

On September 19, 2020, the Province also introduced amendments to the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, which if passed, would create stronger enforcement mechanisms for public health orders province-wide including:

    • A new offence regarding hosting or organizing a gathering in residential premises or other prescribed premises that exceeds limits under an order;
    • A minimum fine of $10,000 for organizers of these gatherings;
    • Authority for the Lieutenant Governor in Council to prescribe additional types of premises for the purpose of the new offence; and
    • Authority for a police officer, special constable or First Nations constable to order the temporary closure of a premise where there are reasonable grounds to believe that any gathering exceeding the number of people allowed is taking place and require individuals to leave the premises.

Extension of Emergency Orders

On September 21, 2020 the Province also announced that all emergency orders currently in forced under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act have been extended until October 22, 2020. Some of the key orders that will be extended include:

    • The single employer rule under 177/20 for service agencies in the developmental services (DS) sector and intervenor services sector, which also makes all guidance, advice and recommendations from the Ministry of Health or Chief Medical Officer of Health binding on agencies in the DS sector and intervenor services agencies;
    • The work deployment and staffing powers of DS sector and intervenor services agencies provided under regulation 121/20;
    • The exceptions applicable to temporary Covid-19-related payments to employees and temporary pandemic pay program restrictions remain in effect.

You can view all emergency orders that continue to be in effect here.

Province’s Fall Covid-19 Plan

Today, the Province announced it would be rolling out its new fall plan entitled Keeping Ontarians Safe: Preparing for Future Waves of COVID-19 (the “Fall Covid-19 Plan”) in stages over the coming days. Ontario’s Fall Covid-19 Plan will:

    • Maintain strong public health measures, including continued expansion of testing and case and contact management;
    • Quickly identify, manage and prevent COVID-19 outbreaks;
    • Accelerate efforts to reduce health service backlogs;
    • Prepare for surges in COVID-19 cases;
    • Recruit, retain, train and support health care workers, while also continuing to engage families and caregivers; and
    • Implement the largest flu immunization campaign in Ontario’s history.

The Province provided details on its flu campaign which is a pillar of the new plan and includes the following measures:

    • Ordering 5.1 million flu vaccine doses in partnership with the federal government and other provinces and territories, 700,000 more than the approximated usage last year. This includes 1.3 million high-dose vaccine doses for Ontario seniors, especially those with pre-existing health conditions;
    • Prioritizing early distribution of the flu vaccine for vulnerable populations in long-term care homes, hospitals and retirement homes;
    • Investing an additional $26.5 million to purchase additional flu vaccine doses if required and made available through the national vaccine bulk procurement program;
    • For the first time in Ontario’s history, improving access by allocating high-dose flu vaccines for seniors to participating pharmacies; and
    • Launching a public education campaign to encourage getting the flu shot.

Ontarians are encouraged to get the flu-shot while continuing to follow Covid-19 public health measures. The flu shot will be available in the coming weeks at primary care provider offices and public health units for anyone over the age of six months, and participating pharmacies for anyone five years of age or older.

As always, PooranLaw will continue to monitor developments related to emergency measures and provide updates on our website. In the meantime, if you require legal assistance, we encourage you to reach out to your regular PooranLaw lawyer, or any member of our team.

Note: This article provides general information only and does not constitute, and should not be relied upon as, legal advice or opinion. PooranLaw Professional Corporation holds the copyright to this article and the article and its contents may not be copied or reproduced in any form, in whole or in part, without the express permission of PooranLaw Professional Corporation