Here's the difference between Ontario's COVID-19 "lockdown" and "shutdown"

Apr 1 2021, 10:56 am

With Ontario poised to enter another province-wide shutdown as of Saturday, confusion abounds as to how the new measures will differ from the lockdown in which several regions remain.

Grey-Lockdown is the most restrictive level of Ontario’s COVID-19 reopening framework. It includes wide-scale measures and restrictions, including closures, to stop transmission.

A shutdown is what is activated by the province’s “emergency brake” system.

The emergency brake allows Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, in consultation with a local medical officer of health, to advise that a region be immediately shut down.

The system, which was updated on March 26, is activated if a public health region experiences a rapid increase in COVID-19 transmission or if its health system is at risk of becoming overwhelmed.

“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.

“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.”

Grey-Lockdown zone

In the Grey zone, people should only go out for essential reasons, such as work, school, to get groceries or go to a pharmacy, to access health care, to help vulnerable people, or for exercise and physical activity.

It is illegal to gather indoors with anyone you do not live with.

Individuals must limit contact to their own household and stay at least two metres apart from everyone else. Those who live alone can have close contact with one other household.

Indoor events and social gatherings are not allowed and are limited to 10 people outdoors.

Religious, wedding, and funeral services are permitted indoors with 15% capacity of the room. Outdoors are permitted for an unlimited number of people as long as physical distance can be maintained.

Receptions for such services are not allowed in the grey zone.

Indoor dining is closed, but outdoor dining is permitted with some restrictions, such as limiting seated parties to members of the same household.

Establishments must close by 10 pm, and alcohol can not be served after 9 pm.

Indoor sports and recreational facilities are closed. Outdoor fitness classes, team training, and personal training are permitted with a maximum of 10 people.

As well, golf courses, driving ranges, and ski hills are allowed to be open.

Meeting and event spaces are closed, with limited exceptions, such as for child care.

In-person shopping is allowed. Supermarkets, stores that primarily sell groceries, convenience stores, and pharmacies must operate at 50% capacity.

Other retail stores, such as liquor stores and big-box retailers, must operate at 25% capacity. As well, fitting rooms cannot be immediately next to each other.

Personal care services are allowed with 25% capacity or five patrons, whichever is less. This measure is intended to come into effect on April 12.

Services that require guests to remove their masks, as well as oxygen bars, steam rooms, saunas, sensory deprivation pods, and bathhouses, must remain closed.

Casinos, bingo halls, and gaming establishments are prohibited.

Cinemas and performing arts facilities are only allowed to operate for drive-ins.


The rules outlined by the province under a shutdown only differ from lockdown measures in a few key areas.

Under a shutdown, people should only go outside for “necessities,” which are the same “essential” reasons listed under a lockdown.

Individuals should not travel outside of their public health region, or the province, unless absolutely necessary.

Indoor events are still prohibited, and outdoor events are limited to five people.

Outdoor dining is not allowed, although take-out, drive-through, and delivery are permitted.

Religious, wedding, and funeral services are allowed under the same capacity restrictions as a lockdown, as is in-person shopping.

Indoor and outdoor sports and recreational fitness facilities are closed, as are personal care services, cinemas, and performing arts facilities.

As in a lockdown, casinos, bingo halls, gaming establishments, and meeting and event spaces are closed.

To date, Ontario has seen 352,460 COVID-19 cases and 7,389 virus-related deaths.

Zoe DemarcoZoe Demarco

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