TORONTO — In response to rising COVID-19 cases, the Ontario government announced it will impose a Province-Wide Shutdown that will take effect on December 26 at 12:01 a.m.
“The number of daily cases continue to rise putting our hospitals and long-term care homes at risk,” says Premier Doug Ford. “We need to stop the spread of this deadly virus. That’s why, on the advice of Dr. Williams and other health experts, we are taking the difficult but necessary decision to shutdown the province and ask people to stay home. Nothing is more important right now than the health and safety of all Ontarians.”
The current COVID-19 Response Framework will be paused when the Province-Wide Shutdown comes into effect. The impacts of these time-limited measures will be evaluated throughout the 14 days in Northern Ontario and 28 days in Southern Ontario to determine if it is safe to lift any restrictions or if they need to be extended.
The shutdown will put in place time-limited public-health and workplace-safety measures similar to those in other jurisdictions. These measures include:
- restricting indoor organized public events and social gatherings, except with members of the same household (those who live alone may have exclusive close contact with one other household)
- prohibiting in-person shopping in most retail settings — curbside pickup and delivery can continue
- restricting indoor access to shopping malls — patrons may only go to a designated indoor pickup area (by appointment only), essential retail stores that are permitted to be open (e.g. pharmacy, grocery store) or, subject to physical-distancing and face-covering requirements, to the food court for takeout purchases
- prohibiting indoor and outdoor dining — foodservice establishments will be permitted to operate by takeout, drive-thru and delivery only
Ontarians are advised to stay home as much as possible with trips outside the home limited to necessities such as food, medication, medical appointments or supporting vulnerable community members. Employers in all industries are expected to make every effort to allow employees to work from home.
Recognizing that small businesses will be impacted by the new measures, the Ontario government also announced the new Ontario Small Business Support Grant, which will provide a minimum of $10,000 and up to $20,000 to eligible small-business owners to help navigate this challenging period.
“Ontario’s business owners have shown remarkable resolve and ingenuity throughout the pandemic. They know better than anyone what they need to come through this very difficult time, so they can continue to serve and employ people in their communities,” says Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance. “The new Ontario Small Business Support Grant will provide significant financial support to eligible small-business owners in addition to the other supports made available to our small business community.”
Small businesses required to close or restrict services under the Province-Wide Shutdown will be able to apply for this one-time grant. Each small business will be able to use the support in whatever way makes the most sense for their individual business.
Eligible small businesses include those that:
- are required to close or significantly restrict services subject to the Province-Wide Shutdown
- have less than 100 employees at the enterprise level
- experienced a minimum of 20-per-cent revenue decline in April 2020 compared to April 2019
Essential businesses that are allowed to remain open will not be eligible for this grant. More information about the Ontario Small Business Support Grant is available here. Further details, including how to apply, will be announced in January 2021.