Ont. heading to province-wide lockdown on Boxing Day

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Ontario will be heading to a province-wide lockdown starting on Boxing Day that will resemble how it was back in March 2020.

Toronto, ON—Ontario will be locking down again. As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the province, the decision was made by premier Doug Ford that on Dec. 26 at 12:01 a.m. the province will allow only essential services to remain open. Southern Ontario will be in lockdown for 28 days, while Northern Ontario will be for 14 days. Northern Ontario health units include Algoma Public Health, North Bay Parry Sound District, Porcupine Health Unit, Public Health Sudbury and Districts, Timiskaming Health Unit, Thunder Bay District Health Unit, Northwestern Health Unit. All other health units in Ontario are considered part of Southern Ontario and are part of the 28-day lockdown.

“The number of daily cases continue to rise putting our hospitals and long-term care homes at risk,” said Premier 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.”

For the construction sector, construction project and related services that support construction projects—including demolition services, land surveyors, critical infrastructure repair and maintenance—including roads, dams, and bridges, are included amongst the services allowed to remain open.

Businesses that extract, manufacture, process and distribute goods, products, equipment and materials—including businesses that manufacture inputs to other manufacturers, and businesses that support and facilitate the movement of goods within integrated North American and global supply chains, are all allowed to remain open as well. In addition, businesses that supply other businesses are also permitted to be open within Ontario.

Small businesses required to close or restrict services under the lockdown will be able to apply for this one-time grant.

Eligible businesses will include those that are required to close or significantly restrict services, have less than 100 employees at the enterprise level, and have experienced a minimum of 20 per cent revenue decline in April 2020 compared to April 2019. The grant will provide a dollar-for-dollar funding. Essential businesses that remain open are not eligible for the grant. More details, including how to apply, will be announced in January 2021.

Businesses impacted by the shutdown will also be eligible for property tax and energy cost rebates.

Restrictions resemble those in March

Indoor organized public events and social gatherings, except with members of the same household, are restricted. Individuals that live alone are allowed to have exclusive close contact with one other household. In-person shopping will be prohibited during the lockdown. Curbside pickup and delivery are allowed to continue. Discount and big box retailers selling groceries must limit capacity by 25 per cent for in-store shopping. Indoor and outdoor dining will also be prohibited with restaurants and bars allowed to operate with take out, drive-through, and delivery services only.

The Ontario government is suggesting that Ontarians stay home as much as possible, save for necessities. Employers in all industries should make every effort to allow employees to work from home.

“This was not an easy decision before the holidays, but we have reached a tipping point,” said Minister Elliott. “We continue to see sharp increases in hospitalizations and occupancy in intensive care units is reaching concerning levels. Urgent action must be taken to prevent our health care system from becoming overwhelmed. By implementing a provincewide shutdown, we can work to stop the virus in its tracks, safeguard hospital capacity, and save lives.”

The government will be providing $12.5 million to implement a “High Priority Communities Strategy” to contain the virus in higher risk communities. This strategy will fun community agencies in 15 priority communities in the York, Peel, Durham, Ottawa, and Toronto regions. The funding will allow for the hiring of “community ambassadors” to raise awareness of available services, increased testing opportunities, and arrangement of wraparound supports for those who test positive for the virus. Additional funding of $42 million will be available to establish isolation centres.

The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development is leading a multi-ministry COVID-19 Safety Team in an attempt to limit transmission within workplaces.

Small businesses will be able to apply for a new Ontario Small Business Support Grant, which will provide a minimum of $10,000 and up to $20,000 to help navigate through this lockdown.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 has increased by 74 per cent over the last four weeks and more than 15 times higher than they were in the beginning of September, reports the Ontario government. Intensive care unit occupancy for the virus has more than doubled over the last four weeks and is 20 times higher than at the beginning of September. Ontario currently has 915 COVID-19 patients requiring acute care, 265 patients in ICU, with 152 on a ventilator.

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