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Ford defends COVID-19 stay-at-home order, province releases FAQs regarding restrictions

The province says it will be issuing guidelines Wednesday night, to spell out the parameters of the order for law enforcement agencies.
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Photo/ The Canadian Press

Ontario's premier is defending his government's new stay-at-home order against criticism that the latest measure to fight COVID-19 is not clear.

Doug Ford stressed that the measure means people should "use their best judgment" to determine if they need to leave their home as virus rates surge.

Under the order that takes effect Thursday, Ontario residents will be required to stay at home except for essential activities such as accessing health care, shopping for groceries, or outdoor exercise.

The government has also restricted hours of operation for non-essential retailers currently offering delivery and curbside pick up to between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m., and a five-person cap on outdoor social gatherings.

Critics have said the definition of what constitutes an essential trip is unclear and the grounds for enforcement of the order have not yet been spelled out.

The province says it will be issuing guidelines tonight to spell out the parameters of the order for law enforcement agencies.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is an essential item?

The Government of Ontario cannot determine what is essential for every person in this province, each with their own unique circumstances and regional considerations. Legally defining what is essential risks cutting people off from goods that may legitimately be necessary for their health, well-being, and safety.

What is an essential trip?

The Government of Ontario cannot determine what is essential for every person in this province, each with their own unique circumstances and regional considerations. That said, we have provided broad categories that people should consider before leaving their home: food, health-care services, including medication, exercise, or work, where someone’s job cannot be done at home.

What is essential work?

The stay-at-home order does not define what work or jobs are essential. Rather, it now mandates that anyone who can work from home must now do so. For example, someone working in retail obviously can’t do their job from home and would be permitted to go to work.

Why hasn’t the province defined who can or should work from home?

The Government of Ontario cannot review tens of millions of job descriptions to determine who can work from home. As such, we are relying on the best judgment and common sense of employers to determine who can do so. If an employee believes they should be working from home, they can contact the Ministry of Labour to file a health and safety complaint.

Why can people still gather in groups of five outdoors?

The outdoor gathering limit of five is in recognition of the fact that some people live alone and may require the company or support of others for their mental and physical well-being. Anyone gathering outside is expected to adhere to physical distancing measures and are now strongly urged to wear a mask.

Can people leave home to exercise? Can I go to my local playground or basketball court?

Yes, exercise is considered an essential reason for leaving your home. What that means will be unique to each individual Ontarian: some may wish to go for a walk around the block, while others may wish to go to a local basketball court with their household to shoot some hoops.

We recommend that Ontarians consult their local public health unit or municipality to understand what recreational amenities are open in their community.

Can someone living alone still join up with another household?

Yes, they can exclusively join one other household. This is to support their mental health and well-being, as well as to ensure those requiring support continue to have access to essential caregivers.

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

No. That said, we’re asking Ontarians to use their best judgment when leaving their home for essential reasons. They should limit the number of stores they go to and spend as little time outside of their home as possible. 

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

No. That said, we’re asking Ontarians to use their best judgment when leaving their home for essential reasons. They should limit the number of stores they go to and spend as little time outside of their home as possible.

Can people travel to their cottages or secondary residences?

Right now, we are asking people to stay home and only leave their homes for essential purposes, which could include emergency maintenance of a secondary residence. In the spirit of the stay-at-home order, at this time we are not recommending intra-provincial travel.

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