In response to the recent rapid increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations caused by the highly transmissible nature of the Omicron variant, and as the province continues to accelerate its booster dose rollout, Ontario announced that effective January 5, 2022, it is temporarily moving back to Step Two of its Roadmap to Reopen with modifications. This move will be in place until at least January 26, 2022, subject to public health trends and health system indicators.

For a complete list of the rules that apply in Step Two, see O. Reg. 263/20 Rules for Areas in Step 2.

Some of the changes that will result from the move back to Step Two include the following:

Work-from-Home Requirement

Businesses and organizations will be required to ensure their employees work remotely unless they are required to be on-site due to the nature of their work.

Business Closures

The following businesses will be required to close, subject to the noted allowances:

  • Indoor meeting and event spaces with limited exceptions.
    • Outdoor spaces may remain open with restrictions.
  • Indoor dining at restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments.
    • Outdoor dining is permitted with restrictions including no more than 10 people per table and active screening.
    • Takeout, drive through and delivery are permitted.
  • Indoor concert venues, theatres, cinemas.
    • Rehearsals and recording of performances are permitted indoors with restrictions.
    • Outdoor concert venues, theatres and cinemas may open with restrictions.
    • Spectators at seated events are limited to 50% capacity.
  • Museums, galleries, zoos, science centres, landmarks, historic sites, botanical gardens and similar attractions, amusement parks and waterparks, tour and guide services and fairs, rural exhibitions, and festivals.
    • Outdoor establishments are permitted to open with restrictions and with spectator occupancy, where applicable, limited to 50% capacity.
  • Indoor horse racing tracks, car racing tracks and other similar venues.
    • Outdoor areas are permitted to open with restrictions and with spectator occupancy limited to 50% capacity.
    • Proof of vaccination is required for outdoor facilities with a usual capacity of 20,000 or more people.
  • Indoor sport and recreational facilities including gyms, with limited exceptions.
    • Outdoor facilities are permitted to operate but the number of spectators is limited to 50% capacity; other restrictions apply.
  • Day and overnight camps.
  • Casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments.
  • Bathhouses and sex clubs.

Capacity Restrictions

The following businesses will be reduced to 50% capacity:

  • Retail settings, including shopping malls.
    • In shopping malls, physical distancing is required in line-ups;
    • Food courts must close;
    • Loitering is not permitted.
  • Personal care services, with restrictions.
  • Public libraries and community centres, with limited exceptions.
  • Boat tours.

Social Gatherings

Social gatherings will be subject to the following limits:

  • Limited to five people indoors.
  • Limited to 10 people outdoors.

Organized Public Events

Organized public events will be subject to the following limits:

  • Limited to five people indoors.
  • No limit for outdoor public events, however face coverings and/or masks must be worn if physical distancing of two metres or more cannot be maintained.

Weddings, Funeral and Religious Services, Rites Ceremonies

Weddings, funeral and religious services, and rites ceremonies will be subject to the following limits:

  • Indoor weddings, funeral and religious services, and rites ceremonies are limited to 50% capacity of the particular room.
    • Outdoor services are limited to the number of persons who can maintain two metres’ physical distance.
  • Social gatherings associated with these services must follow social gathering limits (see above).

Sale of Alcohol

The sale of alcohol will be subject to the following restrictions:

  • Alcohol may not be sold after 10 p.m.
  • Alcohol may not be consumed on-premises in businesses or settings after 11 p.m. (delivery and takeout, grocery/convenience stores and liquor stores are exempted).

Bottom Line for Employers

Employers are encouraged to become familiar with any requirements and restrictions that may apply to them when, on January 5, 2022, the province temporarily reverts to Step Two of its Roadmap to Reopen with modifications. Perhaps one of the most important requirements for employers is to ensure that employees work remotely unless they are required to be on-site due to the nature of their work.

Furthermore, as we have seen since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, its evolution is unpredictable. The rapid spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant leaves us uncertain about how the future might unfold and opens the possibility that Ontario may deem it necessary to modify its response. We will follow any developments that may occur and provide an update should it be appropriate.