What you can and cannot do now that Ontario has tightened its stay-at-home order

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced new public health measures on Friday that tighten the stay-at-home order already in place and include new restrictions on travel between provinces.

The stay-at-home order, first imposed on April 8 for four weeks, will now be extended until May 20.

According to the provincial government, the new measures are intended to curb the rising number of COVID-19 cases as the third wave of the pandemic continues.

All of that means there are new limits on what residents can and cannot do. Here are some answers to questions you might have.

Can I go for a walk?

Yes. In its regulations, the government says: “An outdoor recreational amenity that is a park or recreational area may be open for the purposes of permitting persons to walk through the park or recreational area.”

Can I go for a walk with a friend?

This question is trickier.

The government says in its regulations that any person who uses outdoor parks and recreational areas, off-leash dog areas, or benches in parks and recreational areas “shall maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from any other person who is also using the amenity, other than a person who is a member of the same household, a member of one other household who lives alone or a caregiver for any member of either household.”

Can I gather with people outside of my household?

No, unless you live alone, and then you can gather with only one other household. The province said in a news release on Friday that it has prohibited “all outdoor social gatherings and organized public events, except for with members of the same household or one other person from outside that household who lives alone or a caregiver for any member of the household.”

Can I take my dog to an off-leash park?

Yes. But you have to maintain a two-metre distance from anyone who is not a member of your household and who is not a caregiver of a member of your household.

Can my children play at a playground?

Initially, the province said all outdoor playgrounds, play structures and equipment were not to be used, but in a tweet on Saturday afternoon, Ford said the government will roll back restrictions on playgrounds to allow their use.

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist based at Toronto General Hospital, said Saturday that the province should be encouraging people to go outside. Bogoch is also a member of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force.

“It’s good for physical health. It’s good for mental health, especially with all the other horrible things that are going on in the middle of the third wave. Being outdoors is probably one of the best things you can do,” Bogoch said.

“It’s pretty clear that the outdoors is probably the safest place you could be during the course of the pandemic. We know that the risk of transmission outdoors is not zero per cent, but it’s getting close. It’s really, really low risk.”

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said on Saturday that the government will roll back restrictions on playgrounds to allow their use. (CBC)

The now-amended rules around playground use resulted in a tense situation for one Ottawa woman, who told CBC News she was threatened with a call to the police on Saturday morning by a stranger.

Simmi Dixit said she was walking through a park with her partner and young daughter when a man said he’d call the police on them because they were not allowed to be there. Dixit said they were not touching any outdoor amenities when they were confronted.

“People are at a point where they’re starting to emotionally break,” Dixit told CBC News.

“I think the narrative of fear that we’re hearing around COVID is affecting the way people judge themselves in these situations. We’re perceiving each other as threats instead of looking to each other for strength and support.”

Can I play golf on a golf course?

No. 

Can I play tennis and basketball at a court?

No. And you cannot use any amenities such as those for platform tennis, table tennis and pickleball courts.

Can I play baseball at a diamond?

No.

Can I enjoy a skate park or a BMX park?

No. And you can’t play Frisbee golf at such a location either.

Can I have a picnic at a picnic table?

No, you can’t. A picnic table is considered an outdoor amenity.

Can I go shopping freely?

In all retail settings where in-store shopping is permitted, capacity limits are now 25 per cent. These retail settings include supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, indoor farmers’ markets, other stores that primarily sell food and pharmacies.

All other public health and workplace safety measures for non-essential retail under the provincial emergency brake will continue to apply.

How many can gather at religious services, weddings and funerals?

Effective 12:01 a.m. Monday, only 10 people will be allowed to gather at religious services, weddings and funerals, whether indoors or outdoors. 

What about people trying to enter Ontario?

Beginning on Monday, Ford has said there will be checkpoints at provincial borders with Quebec and Manitoba, with exceptions for essential travel.

The Ontario Provincial Police has provided some clarity: “Those not travelling for essential reasons will be refused entry. There are exceptions for work, medical care, transportation of goods and the exercising of Treaty rights for Indigenous persons,” the OPP said in a statement on Friday.

However, on Saturday, an OPP spokesperson said it continues to work out “logistics and details.”

Under a regulation dated Friday, April 16, the Ontario government provided a list of reasons outlining when a person can enter Ontario from Manitoba or Quebec.

The government has not yet responded to a CBC News request for information about whether people can leave Ontario and if they will face restrictions when trying to do so.

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