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Stop calling 911 with questions about Ontario’s new coronavirus stay-at-home order, police urge

Click to play video 'Confusion over Ontario’s new stay-at-home order' Confusion over Ontario’s new stay-at-home order
WATCH ABOVE: Ontario Premier Doug Ford says the province's stay-at-home order is clear, but plenty of other people disagree. Abigail Bimman looks at the confusion surrounding the province's latest COVID-19 crackdown. – Jan 13, 2021

Representatives with police services in Ontario are asking that people stop calling 911 to ask questions about the Ontario government’s new coronavirus stay-at-home-order.

Peel Regional Police put out a tweet just before 1:30 p.m. on Thursday saying communicators were being “overwhelmed” with calls about COVID-19-related matters, including the new stay-at-home order and restrictions that came into effect at 12:01 a.m.

“It takes away from things that are actually an emergency when people are looking and seeking for police assistance in a medical or criminal situation,” Const. Sarah Patten told Global News.

“It’s taking our communicators away from getting to [emergency] calls quickly because we’re having to weed through all these COVID violation legislation questions.”

Patten said the communications team is “extremely busy” on an everyday basis and they reiterated they were being inundated with calls from people asking what they can and cannot do under the new orders.

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“That’s why we put out everything on social media, to let everyone know that what’s the difference between an emergency and non-emergency for police,” Patten said.

Read more: Coronavirus: Ontario government’s stay-at-home order now in effect

“We understand everyone’s consideration in these circumstances may be different and what I perceive as an emergency you may not perceive as an emergency.

“So we just put it out saying, ‘This is what police consider and emergency and non-emergency’ and if you do have any legislation questions regarding the new COVID-19 restrictions to call 311 or click the link in the social media post on Twitter and Facebook.”

South Simcoe Police tweeted out a similar message Thursday afternoon.

“Our 911 communicators are receiving lots of calls with questions about the stay-at-home order. Please don’t tie up emergency lines with these inquiries,” the message said.

Read more: Stay-at-home emergency alert message sent to Ontarians

York Regional Police also told Global News they had received a “number of calls” on Thursday asking for clarification on the new restrictions. However, a spokesperson said receiving calls about emergency orders is “nothing new” and their communications team has been fielding these types of calls for months.

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Hamilton police said they are being “inundated” with calls on the stay at home order, as well. A spokesperson told Global News they usually received about three to five calls a day related to bylaw matters and so far on Thursday, they’ve received more than 40 just on people asking for clarification on the new order.

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Under the stay-at-home order, Ontario residents are asked to only leave their homes for essential purposes, such as groceries, health care, exercise or work. The order came into effect two days after the Ford government declared a state of emergency for the second time since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

Provincial officials said there’s no set definition for what is “essential” because everyone has their own unique circumstances and regional considerations. There’s no limit on how many times people can leave their homes per day, or on how long they can be out.

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