Ontario extends emergency orders, says it will allow drive-in religious gatherings

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The province of Ontario recently announced that it will extend its current emergency orders until May 29, 2020, but allow drive-in religious gatherings. 

The orders, extended in consultation with the province's Medical Officer of Health, include the closure of bars and restaurants (takeout and delivery are still permitted), restrictions on social gatherings of more than five people, and staff redeployment rules for long-term care homes and congregate settings like retirement homes and women’s shelters. 

The orders were first implemented after the government of Ontario declared a provincial emergency on March 17, 2020, under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. This declaration of emergency was most recently extended on May 12, 2020, and is currently in effect until June 2, 2020.

The government says it is now allowing individuals to attend drive-in religious gatherings so long as they comply with the safeguards listed in the amendment to the emergency order. The conditions include keeping vehicles two metres or more apart, ensuring only members of the same household are in one vehicle, and not leaving the vehicle. The province also says that no more than five people can conduct the service at one time from outside a motor vehicle and they must stay at least two metres apart.

The announcement comes as the province officially enters the first stage of its Framework for Reopening the Province. As part of this initial stage, the government is permitting the reopening of some outdoor recreational amenities, including outdoor sports facilities and multi-use fields, off-leash dog areas, and outdoor picnic sites, benches and shelters in parks and recreational areas, effective as of Tuesday, May 19, 2020.

Outdoor playgrounds, play structures and equipment, fitness equipment, public swimming pools, splash pads and similar outdoor water facilities will remain closed until later stages of the province’s reopening plan.

Although we are entering the first stage of our framework to reopen the economy, it’s critical that we continue to do so in a safe and responsible manner,” said Premier Doug Ford in a statement. 

The people of Ontario have been doing a fantastic job to help flatten the curve and stop the spread of this terrible virus. With warmer weather beginning, individuals and families will now be able to enjoy many outdoor amenities, but everyone must continue to maintain physical distancing from those outside of their household.”

Residents are advised to stay two metres apart from anyone outside of their household, wash their hands regularly, and stay home if they feel unwell.

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