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January 14, 2021

Ontario Government Provides Updated COVID-19 Restrictions for Businesses

Author Hendrik Nieuwland

On January 12, 2021, the Ontario government declared a provincial emergency and announced new COVID-19 restrictions. Further to our blog on the announcement, which can be found here, the restrictions are initially effective for 14 days, but are expected to be in effect for at least 28 days.

The government has released the new restrictions that will apply to businesses across the province. While most of the restrictions are not new, as they were already included in the regulation relating to areas in Stage 1 (lockdown), the government is imposing new restrictions in certain sectors. The new regulations are O Reg 10/21: Rules for Areas in Stage 1, which can be accessed here, and O Reg 11/21: Stay-At-Home Order, which can be accessed here. Some of the changes are outlined below. For a full list of changes, see the government’s presentation, which can be accessed here.

Applicable to all sectors

Working from home is mandated across all sectors, unless the nature of the work to be performed requires employees to be on-site at the workplace.


The following businesses are now only permitted to operate between 7am and 8pm, in addition to previously imposed restrictions:

  • General retail, (examples include hardware, pet food, and computer stores)
  • Safety supply stores
  • Businesses that sell, rent or repair assistive/ mobility / medical devices
  • Optical stores that sell prescription eyewear
  • Shopping malls
  • Cannabis retail stores operating under authority of a retail store authorization issued under the Cannabis Licence Act, 2018
  • Garden centres
  • Motor vehicle sales
  • Outdoor markets
  • Stores that sell liquor, including beer, wine and spirits


Discount retailers, big box stores that sell groceries, and stores that sell liquor, including beer, wine and spirits have a 25% capacity limit.

Schools and Child Care

Schools in Windsor, Toronto, Peel, York and Hamilton public health units remain closed to in-person instruction until at least February 10, 2021. Emergency child care for school-aged children of front-line workers that attend these schools will remain in place until at least February 9, 2021. Before and after school child care is set to resume on February 10, 2021.

The Chief Medical Officer will provide an announcement on January 20, 2021 regarding the return to in-person learning for schools in all other public health units.

Child care will remain open for non-school aged children, and children in junior kindergarten and kindergarten not enrolled in school immediately before December 21, 2020.


Previously, all construction activities were permitted to operate. Under the update to the regulations, construction operations are limited to activities that:

  • Are associated with the health care sector or long-term care;
  • Are for provincial infrastructure, including transit, transportation, resource, energy, and justice sectors beyond day-to-day maintenance;
  • Support electricity generation, transmission, distribution and storage, natural gas distribution, transmission and storage, or the supply of resources;
  • Support schools, colleges, universities, municipal infrastructure or child care centres, within the meaning of the Child Care and Early Years Act, 2014;
  • Are required for maintenance and operations of petrochemical plants and refineries, and significant industrial petrochemical projects where preliminary work commenced before January 12, 2021;
  • Are required for industrial construction for the production, maintenance or enhancement of personal protective equipment, medical devices, and other products directly related to combatting the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Provide additional capacity in producing, processing, manufacturing or distributing food, beverages or agricultural products;
  • Are for projects that commenced before January 12, 2021 to support businesses that provide logistical support, distribution services, warehousing, storage or shipping and delivery services, or provide additional information technology capacity;
  • Support the operations of broadband internet and cellular technologies and services;
  • Are related to residential construction projects, where i) a building permit has been granted for a single family, for semi-detached or townhomes, ii) the project is a condominium, mixed-use or other residential building, or iii) the project involves renovations to residential properties and construction work that was started before January 12, 2021;
  • Are for institutional, commercial, industrial or residential development;
  • Are necessary to temporarily close construction sites that have paused, or that are not active, to ensure ongoing public safety;
  • Are funded in whole or in part by the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program; or
  • Are for providing shelter or support to vulnerable people, including affordable housing, and is being funded by various government entities, a service manager as defined in the Housing Services Act, 2011, a registered charity within the meaning of the Income Tax Act, or a not-for-profit corporation.


Our firm will continue to provide you with updates as the Ontario Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic evolves.

The foregoing is for informational purposes only and should in no way be relied upon as legal advice. For legal advice tailored to your circumstances and business, please contact any of SOM LLP’s lawyers by email or telephone.


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