Government Announces Province-Wide Shutdown and Additional Restrictions

The Government of Ontario has today announced its decision to implement a province-wide shutdown in order to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 and protect the population from a potential “second surge” of the pandemic. The latest (temporary) shutdown is expected to be in effect as of 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, December 26, 2020 and will be effective for 14 days in Northern Ontario and 28 days in Southern Ontario (after which the measures will be evaluated by public health authorities to determine whether the restrictions can be lifted or whether they need to be extended).

The current “colour coded” COVID-19 Response Framework is to be paused once the shutdown comes into effect. The key elements of the shutdown will be as follows:

  • Indoor organized public events and social gatherings will be prohibited, except with members of the same household (the people you live with). Individuals who live alone may consider having exclusive close contact with one other household.  [NOTE: This is the restriction that we feel will have the greatest impact on most condominiums. More on this below.]
  • In-person shopping in most retail settings will be prohibited – curbside pickup and delivery can continue. Discount and big box retailers selling groceries will be limited to 25 per cent capacity for in-store shopping. Supermarkets, grocery stores and similar stores that primarily sell food, as well as pharmacies, will continue to operate at 50 per cent capacity for in-store shopping.
  • Indoor access to shopping malls will be restricted. Patrons may only go to a designated indoor pickup area (by appointment only), to essential retail stores that are permitted to be open (e.g. pharmacy, grocery store), or, subject to physical distancing and face covering requirements, to the food court for takeout purchases. Shopping malls may also establish outdoor designated pickup areas.
  • Indoor and outdoor dining will be prohibited. Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments will be permitted to operate by take out, drive-through, and delivery only.

By way of overall summary, the government is advising Ontarians not to leave their homes during the shutdown other than to go to work, attend essential appointments, obtain medical services or to get groceries. As noted above, essential services, such as grocery stores and pharmacies, will continue to operate at reduced capacity while other retail services will remain open for delivery and curbside pickup only.

In addition to the above restrictions, the government has hinted at further travel restrictions and measures, notably its intention to perhaps conduct testing of passengers from international flights at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.

What does the latest shutdown mean for condominiums?

In our view, the key impacts for condominiums appear to be as follows:

  • In general, in-person indoor meetings (both Board Meetings and Owners’ Meetings) will not be possible during the lockdown (because indoor in-person meetings will only be possible between members of the same household).
  • Also, most indoor amenities will need to be closed/kept closed during the lockdown, unless the Board determines that the particular uses are “essential” (which would have to be determined on a case-by-case basis, and likely involve further legal consideration), and provided the Board is satisfied that use of the amenity can be restricted to the member(s) of one household at a time, and provided the Board is satisfied that it is possible to take proper steps to sanitize the amenity space between users.
  • It appears that any “non-essential” work projects will likely need to be avoided or delayed during the lockdown.
  • Mask-wearing, social distancing and reasonable sanitizing will of course all continue to apply for passage through the common elements.

What about your condo’s shared facilities?

The closure of all indoor sports and recreational fitness facilities, as well as meeting spaces (with certain limited exceptions), means your shared pool, gym, or other similar facilities will have to close again as of December 26, 2020, for at least 28 days (in Southern Ontario), and your meetings will have to continue to take place virtually.

However, it’s not all bad news for our activity levels. The following outdoor recreational amenities are permitted to remain open:

  • Parks and recreational areas
  • Baseball diamonds
  • Batting cages
  • Soccer, football and sports fields
  • Tennis, platform tennis, table tennis and pickleball courts
  • Basketball courts
  • BMX parks
  • Skate parks
  • Golf courses and driving ranges
  • Frisbee golf locations
  • Cycling tracks and bike trails
  • Horse riding facilities
  • Shooting ranges, including those operated by rod and gun clubs
  • Ice rinks
  • Snowmobile, cross country, dogsledding, ice-skating and snow-shoe trails
  • Playgrounds
  • Portions of parks or recreational areas containing outdoor fitness equipment
  • Tobogganing hills and skating trails

So, if you have any of these outdoor amenities available, and if the weather cooperates a little, residents can still get in some much-needed exercise after all those holiday treats. Keep in mind that for any outdoor amenity that does open, social distancing must be maintained (so no team sports!) and shared rooms, such as locker and change rooms, must remain closed.

Needless to say, the situation and related measures are constantly evolving. We will be sure to keep you updated on the latest developments!