Executive summary

On March 17, 2020, based on the advice of Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and other leading public health officials, the Ontario government declared a provincial emergency under s. 7.0.1 (1) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA). In doing so, Ontario was able to implement and enforce the necessary emergency orders to protect the health and safety of individuals, families and communities from the threat of the COVID-19 virus.

This report focuses on the 129 days the declared provincial emergency was in effect and outlines the 47 orders the government issued and amended as needed to protect Ontarians. The report is organized into the following five sections based on the challenges the emergency orders addressed:

  1. limiting spread of COVID-19
  2. supporting continuity of critical services
  3. supporting business
  4. supporting vulnerable sectors
  5. providing cost relief to Ontarians


Once the provincial emergency was declared, Ontario created orders under s. 7.0.2 and 7.1 of the EMCPA and amended them in consultation with, or based on the advice of, the Chief Medical Officer of Health, the Health Command Table and/or other health experts, based on data, evidence and need. The 44 orders made under s. 7.0.2 were required to be brought before Cabinet at least every 14 days for approval to extend another 14 days. The three orders made under s. 7.1 were required to be brought before Cabinet at least every 90 days for approval to extend up to another 90 days.

On April 27, 2020, Ontario released A Framework for Reopening our Province (framework). This framework outlined the criteria the Chief Medical Officer of Health and other health experts used to advise the government on loosening of public health measures as necessary. It also established guiding principles, such as a stage-by-stage approach for the safe, gradual reopening of places of business, services and public spaces that had been required to close or limit their services.

Based on public health indicators and the ongoing risks of COVID-19, the government introduced the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020 (ROA) on July 7, 2020. This statute was proclaimed into force by the Lieutenant Governor on July 24, 2020, which ended the declared provincial emergency. The ROA enabled emergency orders made under the EMCPA to continue under the ROA, with the ability to extend them up to 30 days and, in certain limited cases, amend them. These features of the ROA provide the government with flexibility to address the ongoing risks and effects of COVID-19.

Approach to developing emergency orders

All orders were developed based on public health information available at the time with the intent of addressing COVID-19 challenges while limiting intrusiveness. The province considered the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, other leading public health officials and partners across the system.

Many orders applied to the entire province due to the global nature of the pandemic. A regional approach was taken for orders outlining the reopening of the province, as every region in Ontario experienced the effects of COVID-19 differently. This approach reflected the unique realities of different communities in Ontario.

Decisions were based on public health criteria being met locally, as outlined in the framework, including virus spread and containment along with health system and incidence-tracking capacity. Orders were reviewed by the government at least every 14 days and adjusted or revoked as soon as they were no longer necessary. Some orders were revoked or permitted to expire prior to the termination of the declared provincial emergency on July 24, 2020, while others remained in effect when the ROA came into force on July 24, 2020, to address the ongoing risks and effects of COVID-19.

1. Limiting spread of COVID-19

Limiting the size of gatherings and access to amenities, places, etc.

Ontario moved quickly to limit the spread of COVID-19 by restricting the opening of certain establishments and recreational spaces, limiting the size of organized public events or gatherings and closing places of business deemed non-essential. Also included were orders that allowed the government to take a targeted, regional approach to reducing restrictions on Ontarians, businesses and organizations, as trends in public health indicators improved.

  • O. Reg. 82/20 (Rules for Areas in Stage 1)
  • O. Reg. 263/20 (Rules for Areas in Stage 2)
  • O. Reg. 364/20 (Rules for Areas in Stage 3)
  • O. Reg. 363/20 (Stages of Reopening)
  • O. Reg. 51/20 (Order Under Subsection 7.0.2(4) of the Act - Closure of Establishments)
  • O. Reg. 52/20 (Order Under Subsection 7.0.2(4) of the Act - Organized Public Events, Certain Gatherings)
  • O. Reg. 142/20 (Order Under Subsection 7.0.2(4) of the Act - Closure of Public Lands for Recreational Camping)
  • O. Reg. 104/20 (Emergency Order Under Subsection 7.0.2(4) of the Act - Closure of Outdoor Recreational Amenities)
  • O. Reg. 114/20 (Enforcement of Orders)

The government made it easier for people to conduct business and practice physical distancing by allowing meetings to occur virtually instead of in-person. Orders were made to enable electronic signatures and virtual witnessing of wills and powers of attorney, electronic service of legal documents and virtual meetings for certain types of corporations and organizations.

  • O. Reg. 76/20 (Electronic Service)
  • O. Reg. 129/20 (Signatures in Wills and Powers of Attorney)
  • O. Reg. 107/20 (Order Under Subsection 7.1 (2) of the Act - Corporations, Co-Operative Corporations and Condominium Corporations)
Outbreak management

Certain orders allowed the government to address management issues in an outbreak by ordering temporary alternative management in long-term care or retirement home to ensure the safety of and adequate care for residents and patients.

  • O. Reg. 210/20 (Management of Long-term Care Homes in Outbreak)
  • O. Reg. 240/20 (Management of Retirement Homes in Outbreak)

2. Supporting continuity of critical services

Given the impact COVID-19 has had on many facets of life in Ontario, the government made 12 orders to ensure critical services could continue while managing the effects of COVID-19. Orders were made to address a gap or resource pressure, such as front-line staff being unable to meet requalification requirements due to closures of training centres and gathering size limits. They also addressed approval timelines necessary to create urgent temporary facilities to support physical distancing in certain congregate care settings.

List of orders supporting continuity of services
  • O. Reg. 73/20 (Limitation Periods)
  • O. Reg. 75/20 (Drinking Water Systems and Sewage Works)
  • O. Reg. 95/20 (Streamlining Requirements for Long-Term Care Homes)
  • O. Reg. 141/20 (Temporary Health or Residential Facilities)
  • O. Reg. 192/20 (Certain Persons Enabled to Issue Medical Certificates of Death)
  • O. Reg. 89/20 (Traffic Management)
  • O. Reg. 190/20 (Access to Personal Health Information by Means of the Electronic Health Record)
  • O. Reg. 140/20 (Agreements Between Health Service Providers and Retirement Homes)
  • O. Reg. 195/20 (Treatment of Temporary COVID-19 Related Payments to Employees)
  • O. Reg. 241/20 (Special Rules Re Temporary Pandemic Pay)
  • O. Reg. 120/20 (Order Under Subsection 7.0.2(4) of the Act - Access to COVID-19 Status Information by Specified Persons)
  • O. Reg. 132/20 (Use of Force and Firearms in Policing Services)

3. Supporting business

The government made three orders that supported businesses impacted by COVID-19 by allowing them to operate in a safe manner and by reducing certain direct costs. For example, the orders allowed municipalities to quickly pass temporary bylaws to create and extend patios, enabling restaurants to serve more customers outdoors while indoor dining was limited, and protected businesses from hydro price spikes. As well, the government enabled certain businesses to sell their products to customers through means such as curbside pick-up.

List of orders supporting businesses
  • O. Reg. 128/20 (Pickup and Delivery of Cannabis)
  • O. Reg. 345/20 (Patios)
  • O. Reg. 191/20 (Order Under Subsection 7.0.2(4) of the Act - Global Adjustment for Market Participants and Consumers)

4. Supporting vulnerable sectors

Fifteen orders were made to support the continuity of services to vulnerable populations while also limiting the spread of COVID-19. This included orders that provided flexibility for certain employers by allowing them to take reasonably necessary measures related to work deployment and staffing.

List of orders supporting vulnerable sectors
  • O. Reg. 193/20 (Hospital Credentialing Processes)
  • O. Reg. 74/20 (Work Redeployment for Certain Health Services Providers)
  • O. Reg. 156/20 (Deployment of Employees of Service Provider Organizations)
  • O. Reg. 163/20 (Work Deployment Measures for Mental Health and Addictions Agencies)
  • O. Reg. 116/20 (Work Deployment Measures for Boards of Health)
  • O. Reg. 118/20 (Work Deployment Measures in Retirement Homes)
  • O. Reg. 77/20 (Work Deployment Measures in Long-Term Care Homes)
  • O. Reg. 121/20 (Service Agencies Providing Services and Supports to Adults with Developmental Disabilities and Service Providers Providing Intervenor Services)
  • O. Reg. 145/20 (Work Deployment Measures for Service Agencies Providing Violence Against Women Residential Services and Crisis Line Services)
  • O. Reg. 157/20 (Work Deployment Measures for Municipalities)
  • O. Reg. 154/20 (Work Deployment Measures for District Social Services Administration Boards)
  • O. Reg. 205/20 (Education Sector)
  • O. Reg. 177/20 (Congregate Care Settings)
  • O. Reg. 146/20 (Limiting Work to a Single Long-Term Care Home)
  • O. Reg. 158/20 (Limiting Work to a Single Retirement Home)

5. Providing cost relief to Ontarians

There were three orders made to protect Ontarians impacted by increased costs of necessary goods and services due to COVID-19. This included prohibiting the charging of excessive prices for necessary goods, such as hand sanitizer. In addition, the government provided relief to parents, ensuring they didn’t need to pay child care fees where care was not being provided (due to closures of childcare centres) and that their child care spaces were protected. The government also temporarily changed the electricity pricing rates to ensure Ontarians spending more time at home would not face higher hydro bills.

List of orders providing cost relief to Ontarians
  • O. Reg. 98/20 (Prohibition on Certain Persons Charging Unconscionable Prices for Sales of Necessary Goods)
  • O. Reg. 139/20 (Order Under Subsection 7.0.2(4) of the Act - Child Care Fees)
  • O. Reg. 80/20 (Electricity Price for RPP Consumers)