Ontario's stay-at-home order: Your top questions answered here

Ontario has declared a third state of emergency and another provincewide stay-at-home order to slow the surge of COVID-19 cases. 

Premier Doug Ford made the announcement on Wednesday, saying the that new measures are being taken in response to the rapid increase in COVID-19 transmission.

The stay-at-home order, which by law allows people to only leave their home for essential reasons, goes into effect as of 12:01 a.m. on April 8.

Ford said the stay-at-home order will be very similar to the one that was put into effect in January, with a few exceptions.

This is the second time Ontario has been placed under a stay-at-home order.

Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions about the stay-at-home order:

How long will the stay-at-home order be in effect?

Ontario will be under a provincewide stay-at-home order for at least 28 days, which is until May 6. 

The order can be extended if the government deems it necessary. 

What is considered an essential trip?

The Ontario government admitted during the first stay-at-home order back in January they can't determine what is essential for every person in the province.

They provided a list of categories people should consider before leaving their home, which include food, health-care services (including medication and vaccines), exercise, or work when someone’s job can't be done at home.

Here's a more detailed list of what the Ontario government considers essential.

Is there a limit on the number of times someone can leave their home in a day?

No, but all trips should be considered essential. 

Is there a time limit for how long people can leave their homes?

No, but the government said people should spend as little time as possible out of their house.

What is allowed to remain open?

The majority of non-essential retailers must close to in-person shopping, but can operate for curbside pick-up and delivery between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. 

The delivery of goods to customers is permitted between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. 

Shopping malls must also close for in-person shopping and can only operate for specific purposes like curbside pick-up by appointment only.

Can big box stores stay open?

Yes, big box stores will remain open to in-person sales but they will only be allowed to sell essential goods, such as groceries, household cleaning supplies, pharmacy items. 

The following stores are allowed to remain open for in-person shopping by appointment only with a 25 per cent capacity limit and restricted hours between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.:

  • Safety supply stores
  • Businesses that primarily sell, rent or repair assistive devices, aids or supplies, mobility devices, aids or supplies or medical devices, aids or supplies
  • Rental and leasing services including automobile, commercial and light industrial machinery and equipment rental
  • Optical stores that sell prescription eyewear to the public
  • Businesses that sell motor vehicles, boats and other watercraft
  • Vehicle and equipment repair and essential maintenance and vehicle and equipment rental services
  • Retail stores operated by a telecommunications provider or service, which may only permit members of the public to enter the premises to purchase a cellphone or for repairs or technical support

Outdoor garden centres and plant nurseries, and indoor greenhouses that engage in sales to the public, can remain open with 25 per cent capacity limits.

Are schools staying open?

The Ford government is not requiring schools to close in Ontario, although Toronto, Peel Region, and Guelph have decided to take that step.

Schools in those areas will not return to in-person learning until at least April 19.

Can people leave home to exercise? 

Yes. Exercise is considered an essential reason for leaving your home. 

Are restaurants still open for takeout and delivery?

Restaurants and bars aren't affected by the stay-at-home order and can remain open for take out, drive-thru, and delivery only.

What about massages?

Registered massage therapists are regulated health professionals in Ontario and can remain open.

Can I go to my cottage or secondary residence?

No. The government says that because it is asking residents to stay home, trips to a cottage or secondary residence should be avoided, unless it is for an essential purpose like emergency maintenance.

The government is asking that people do not travel between regions for non-essential reasons.

Can I go see a movie at the drive-in?

Concert venues, theatres and cinemas are closed, including drive-in or drive-through events.

How will the government know who is out for legitimate reasons and who isn't?

During the previous stay-at-home order, the province said that residents will have a duty to identify themselves when a police officer has "reasonable and probable grounds" that there has been a breach of the orders made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.

On Wednesday, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones told reporters at Queen's Park "let me be clear, these measures will be enforced.”

“Now more than ever, that people adhere to the orders and follow public health measures,” Jones said.

Ford said Ontario doesn't "have enough police officer to chase people down" but is asking for cooperation. 

Will LCBO stores stay open?

Yes. LCBO locations will remain open during the stay-at-home order but will have capacity limits.

Can I still go to a golf course?

Yes. According to the government, golf courses will remain open because outdoor activites are permitted.

The following outdoor activities are allowed to continue if pysical distancing can be maintained:

  • Parks and recreational areas, baseball diamonds, batting cages soccer, football and sports fields, tennis, platform tennis, table tennis and pickleball courts, basketball courts, BMX parks, skate parks, frisbee golf locations, cycling tracks and bike trails, horse riding facilities, shooting ranges, including those operated by rod and gun clubs, ice rinks, tobogganing hills, snowmobile, cross country, dogsledding, ice-skating and snow-shoe trails, playgrounds, portions of parks or recreational areas containing outdoor fitness equipment.

What about weddings, funerals and other religious services?

Weddings, funerals and other religious services are subject to capacity limits of 15 per cent indoors.

In an outdoor setting, capacity limits are set at the number of people who can fit in the space and still maintain two metres of distance from each other.

Guests must always maintain physical distance and wear face coverings.

Virtual services are permitted.

What is the outdoor gathering limit?

While you should not come in close contact with anyone from outside your household, the legal limit for outdoor gatherings is five people. 

What are the rules for the construction industry?

According to the government, construction activities or projects and related supporting services, including demolition and land surveying, are allowed.

Is a housekeeper still allowed in my home?

Yes. Domestic services like housekeeping, cooking, indoor and outdoor cleaning and maintenance services are allowed but only to support children, seniors and vulnerable persons.

Is dog grooming allowed?

Yes. Veterinary services, and other businesses that provide pet services for the health and welfare of animals, can remain open.

These include farms, boarding kennels, stables, animal shelters, research facilities, pet groomers, pet sitters, pet walkers, and pet trainers.

What if I live alone?

The government says individuals who live alone and single parents may consider having exclusive, close contact with another household to help reduce the negative impacts of social isolation.

Can I travel within Canada?

While non-essential trips from Ontario to within Canada are not encouraged, there are no legal restrictions against them.

Are marinas allowed to operate?

Yes. Marinas, boating clubs and other organizations that maintain docking facilities can continue to operate with conditions in place.