Here’s what you can and can’t do during Ontario’s COVID-19 ’emergency brake’ shutdown

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COVID-19: Ontario health minister outlines what you can and can’t do in ’emergency brake’ shutdown
WATCH: Ontario health minister outlines what you can and can't do in 'emergency brake' shutdown – Apr 1, 2021

In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Ontario and reduce the strain on hospital intensive care units, the provincial government moved to activate its “emergency brake” shutdown restrictions.

Officials said as of 12:01 a.m. on April 3, the order will see all of the province’s public health regions move to the shutdown level from each of the current designations under Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework.

“We are facing a serious situation and drastic measures are required to contain the rapid spread of the virus, especially the new variants of concern,” Premier Doug Ford said in a statement on April 1.

“I know pulling the emergency brake will be difficult on many people across the province, but we must try and prevent more people from getting infected and overwhelming our hospitals.”

Here’s generally what you can and can’t do under Ontario’s “emergency brake” shutdown level of restrictions.

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Animal services, boarding kennels

Veterinary services along with businesses and organizations that are responsible for the health and welfare of animals, including farms, kennels, stables and shelters, along with ones that train and provide service animals, and pet grooming, walking, sitting and training are allowed to operate.

Attractions and zoos

Amusement parks, zoos, aquariums, museums and cultural amenities must stay closed.


Trailers and RVs being used by people in need in housing or are allowed on a full-season contract basis are allowed. Only campsites with electricity, water and sewage facilities will be allowed to be used.

All other recreational facilities aside from washrooms and showers must stay closed.

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Cannabis stores

Cannabis stores can be open with 25 per cent of the approved capacity.

Casinos, bingo halls, gaming

Casinos, bingo halls and gaming facilities were ordered closed.

Cinemas, movie theatres, performing arts facilities

These facilities were ordered closed.

Film and television production

Film and television production can go ahead so long as there are no spectators. Employees and performers have to keep two metres apart except when needed for filming. Various pre- and post-production services are allowed. Hair and makeup staff are required to wear personal protective equipment. Singers and musicians need to be separated by impermeable barriers.

Post-production is permitted.


Golf was given the go-ahead to proceed, but clubhouses and indoor facilities need to stay closed.

Hotels, motels and short-term rentals

Hotels, motels lodges, resorts and student residences can remain open for business. However, pools, fitness centres, meeting rooms and other recreational amenities must be closed.

Short-term rentals are only allowed for those who need the spaces for housing.

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Household services

Housekeepers, nannies, baby sitters and other household staff will be allowed to keep working so long as they are supporting children, seniors and vulnerable people. Cleaning, maintenance and repair-related services and businesses will also be allowed.


Only curbside pickup and delivery will be allowed. Patrons can go inside facilities for pick-up and drop-off or to access computers, photocopiers and similar services. Permitted services are allowed.

Meeting and event spaces

Meeting and event spaces must stay closed except for spaces used for child care, court and government services, collective bargaining, mental health and addiction support services with a maximum of 10 people and spaces used for social services.

Nightclubs and strip clubs

Nightclubs and strip clubs can only operate if doing so as a restaurant or other food and drink establishment, which means take-out, drive-through and/or delivery services of food and drink only.

Personal care services

Personal care service providers (e.g. hair salons, barbershops etc.) must stay closed.

Photography studios and services

Commercial and industrial photography is allowed, but retail studios need to stay closed.

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Real estate

Real estate agencies will be allowed to operate, but open houses must be by appointment only.

Regulated health services

Regulated health professionals (chiropractors, dentists, massage therapists, physical and occupational therapists, podiatrists etc.) are allowed to operate under the provincial framework.

Restaurants, bars, cafes

Indoor and outdoor seating is banned. Existing take out, drive-through and delivery services will be allowed to continue.

Schools and post-secondary institutions

Schools and daycare facilities will be allowed to remain open in accordance with previous reopening plans and adherence to evolving public health guidelines.

Post-secondary institutions can stay open for in-person instruction only for programs that require it (for example clinical medical training, trades etc.). Virtual learning will be required. for all other situations.

Shopping and retail

In-person shopping can still occur, but supermarkets, convenience stores, pharmacies and other stores primarily selling groceries must cap the number of customers to 50 per cent of the approved capacity. The maximum capacity for these locations, according to government documents, is determined by dividing the total square metres of floor space accessible to the public (not including shelving and store fixtures) by eight and rounding down to the nearest whole number

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For all other retail businesses, there is a cap of 25 per cent capacity under the province’s regulations. The maximum capacity for these businesses, according to government documents, is determined by dividing the total square metres of floor space accessible to the public (not including shelving and store fixtures) by 16 and rounding down to the nearest whole number.

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Businesses will need to increase the cleaning and disinfecting of washrooms and change rooms to ensure the facilities are kept in a “sanitary condition.”

It will be up to stores to ensure passive screening is done of customers. That screening can be the posting of signs outside advising people not to enter if they have COVID-19 symptoms.

Indoor malls are required to screen patrons before they enter the mall and loitering inside the malls isn’t allowed. Each store inside the mall will be capped at 25 per cent of the approved capacity.

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Customers will need to maintain a two-metre distance and wearing face coverings in accordance with the existing regulations.

Curbside pick-up and delivery will continue to be allowed.

Social gatherings, religious services, weddings, funerals

Organized, indoor public events and social gatherings are banned except for people from the same household. Those who live alone are allowed under the regulations to maintain exclusive access to another household due to social isolation concerns.

Outdoor organized public events and social gatherings with physical distancing are capped at five people.

Weddings, funerals and religious services indoors are capped at 15 per cent of the approved room capacity and physical distancing must be adhered to. For services outdoors, there isn’t a hard maximum posted so long as the “number of people that can maintain two metres physical distance from each other outdoors.”

Virtual and drive-in religious services, rites, ceremonies and events are allowed under certain conditions.

Sports and recreation fitness

Indoor recreational amenities were ordered closed.

Facilities for fitness activities were only permitted to open for high-performance athletes training for professional sports leagues or for the Olympics and Paralympics as well as for those with disabilities who need access to physical therapy.

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The following outdoor recreational amenities were allowed to open: Parks and recreational areas, baseball diamonds, batting cages, sports fields, tennis courts, table tennis amenities, pickleball courts, basketball courts, BMX parks, skate parks, frisbee golf areas, bike trails and cycling tracks, shooting ranges, ice rinks, tobogganing hills, snowmobile and cross-country trails, playgrounds and parts of parks with outdoor fitness equipment.

However, for the approved outdoor recreational amenities, two metres of distances must be maintained, team sports where players come within two metres of each other are banned and locker rooms and clubhouses need to stay closed (exceptions include washrooms, first aid and equipment storage).

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