What does a COVID-19 shutdown mean for Ontario? Your top questions answered

As of midnight, Ontario entered a month-long provincewide shutdown that will see restaurants shuttered and gatherings further restricted.

Premier Doug Ford announced that he would be “pulling the emergency break” as a result of rising COVID-19 cases and intensive care admissions.

“Friends, right now we're into a third wave of COVID-19,” Ford told reporters on Friday. “The variants of concern are spreading rapidly. This is a new pandemic. We're now fighting a new enemy.”

The premier used the term “shutdown” to describe the new restrictions, but what does that mean?

How is the shutdown different from the restrictions already in place under the provincial COVID-19 framework?

The shutdown rules are quite similar to the older version of the grey zone, the strictest tier in the province’s COVID-19 framework.

Last month, the province made changes to the grey zone rules, allowing patios to open, outdoor fitness to resume and personal care services to begin operation.

Under the new shutdown, all of those services are shuttered yet again. The number of people allowed to gather outdoors has also decreased from 10 to five.

The only other difference is that the shutdown is provincewide and will impact all 34 of Ontario’s public health units.

A full list of what you can and cannot do can be found here.

How long will it last?

The government has said that the shutdown will last at least one month, or until May 3.

Are schools open?

Schools and child-care centres are expected to stay open throughout the four-week shutdown. . Education Minister Stephen Lecce said that the provincial government is fully committed to keeping schools open and that students will return to “elevated” infection prevention and control measures.

Day camps, however, will be closed.

Is the April break still happening?

The postponed March Break, now scheduled for the week of April 12, is expected to go ahead as planned.

Can I go to a restaurant?

In-person dining (indoor and outdoor) is prohibited. Restaurants are allowed to provide takeout and delivery only.

Can I get a haircut?

No. All personal care services are prohibited during the shutdown.

Can I go to the store?

Retail stores are allowed to operate with strict capacity limits. Essential stores such as supermarkets, pharmacies and other stores that primarily sell food can open at 50 per cent capacity, while all other retailers, including big box stores, are restricted at 25 per cent capacity.

While standing in line to enter a store, customers must maintain two meters distance between one another.

Are gyms open?

No. Gyms, as well as outdoor fitness classes, are closed during the shutdown.

Is there a stay-at-home order?

The province opted not to issue a stay-at-home order during the shutdown. However, residents are encouraged not to leave their home except for essential reasons, inlcuding trips for buying food, medication, medical appointments, supporting vulnerable individuals and exercising outdoors with members of their household.

Can I get together with my family?

It is illegal to gather indoors with anyone you do not live with. Residents may get together with up to five people outdoors, but a two-metre distance must be maintained.

Can I host a wedding or hold a funeral?

Indoor ceremonies or religious services are capped at 15 per cent capacity. There is no cap on outdoor religious services, but all participants must be able to stay two metres apart from one another.

Can I travel in the province?

Residents are being asked not to travel outside of their region or province unless absolutely necessary.

Why is this happening?

The shutdown was implemented as a result of rising COVID-19 variant cases and a record-breaking number of admissions to the intensive care unit as a result of the disease. New modelling data released on Thursday suggests that even with further restrictions, including a stay-at-home order, COVID-19 admissions to intensive care units could reach 800 by the end of the month.