Here we go again.

In response to a doubling in COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks, and the resulting threat to the province’s hospital system, the Ontario government has declared a second provincial emergency under s 7.0.1 (1) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. [The legislative process being followed today is similar to the one followed last March].

Lockdown measures to remain in place

It is important to note that (at least as we understand it), this state of emergency does not replace the current provincial lockdown but supplement it. Stated otherwise, as far as we know, the grey zone restrictions continue to apply across the province. You can read more on these measures here.

We are of the view that the following measures therefore continue to apply:

  • Masks are generally required in indoor common elements (there are exceptions and nuances);
  • Indoor organized public events or social gatherings of any kind are not permitted;
  • Outdoor organized public events or social gatherings are limited to 10 people; and,
  • Gym, pools and all other recreational amenities must be closed.

A new measure announced today imposes additional restrictions on all non-essential constructions. While we are waiting to see the legislative language for further details, we are of the view that this will likely require all non-essential and non-urgent work (in suites and on common elements) to be postponed.

Additional measures pursuant to today’s Declaration of Emergency

While we are still waiting to see the precise language of the Order in Council (or regulation to be adopted), this is what we understood from today’s press release:

  • The government is issuing a stay-at-home order requiring everyone to remain at home with exceptions for essential purposes, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services, for exercise or for essential work;
  • All businesses must ensure that any employee who can work from home, does work from home. [We are waiting to see if the regulation will provide any guidance on how managers can do their work (likely all non-essential physical attendance will be suspended) and how this new measure will impact concierge and security guards in condos];
  • Outdoor organized public gatherings and social gatherings are further restricted to a limit of five people with limited exceptions. [We conclude that all organized indoor public gathering continue to be prohibited];
  • Individuals are required to wear a mask or face covering in the indoor areas of businesses or organizations that are open. [Our reading is that this stricter restriction applies to all interior common elements].
  • Wearing a mask or face covering is now recommended outdoors when you can’t physically distance more than two metres;
  • Non-essential construction is further restricted, including below-grade construction, exempting survey;
  • All non-essential retail stores, including hardware stores, alcohol retailers, and those offering curbside pickup or delivery, must open no earlier than 7 a.m. and close no later than 8 p.m. The restricted hours of operation do not apply to stores that primarily sell food, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores, and restaurants for takeout or delivery.

Some measures are effective immediately, while others will comes into effect at 12:01 am, on January 14, 2021.

Ontario’s predicted model

The press release shared the following dire picture:

Provincial modelling shows growth in COVID-19 cases has accelerated, leading to increased hospitalization rates and ICU occupancy. ICU occupancy by COVID-19 patients is now over 400 beds and is projected to be as high as 1,000 beds by early February which has the potential to overwhelm Ontario’s hospitals. The number of COVID-19-related deaths continues to rise and is expected to double from 50 to 100 deaths per day between now and the end of February. Notably, data shows that mobility and contacts between people have not decreased with the current restrictions. A new variant of COVID-19 emerged in November. If community transmission of this variant occurs, Ontario could experience much higher case counts, ICU occupancy and mortality.