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Ontario-wide lockdown will limit Boxing Day buzz

Last Updated Dec 26, 2020 at 8:21 am PDT


Province-wide lockdown in effect until Jan. 9 for northern Ontario; Jan. 23 for southern Ontario

All non-essential businesses closed to in-person shopping, no indoor organized public events or social gatherings

Essential businesses have strict capacity limits while restaurants permitted to offer take-out and delivery

The traditional Boxing Day shopping frenzy which sees scores of deal seekers flood downtown shops and malls will be noticeably quiet in Ontario this year as a province-wide lockdown takes effect Saturday morning.

The measures, which were announced five days ago, are an effort by the Ford government to bring soaring COVID-19 cases under control.

Toronto and Peel Region are no strangers to the province’s grey-lockdown measures, with York Region, Windsor-Essex and Hamilton having recently been added to the list. But as of Saturday, those rules will apply all across Ontario.

That means all non-essential businesses will be closed to in-person shopping, indoor dining is also off limits and no indoor organized public events or social gatherings, except with members of the same household. Weddings, funerals and other religious services can only have 10 people regardless if they are indoor or outdoor.

Essential businesses that remain open will have strict capacity limits while restaurants will be permitted to offer take-out and delivery. Indoor sports facilities and personal care services, including salons, are all shut.

The province has announced it will offer a grant to some small businesses with a minimum of $10,000 to help offset losses.

Northern Ontario, where there are currently fewer cases, will see lockdown restrictions eased on January 9 while southern Ontario will have to wait until at least January 23.

The lockdown is also providing an extended winter break for schools as classes will move to online learning for the first week of the new year. Elementary students won’t be back for in-person learning until January 11 while high school students will continue remote learning until at least January 25.

The government says child care will remain open for the duration of the province-wide shutdown. But, during the time when elementary schools are operating virtually, “licensed child care centres and authorized recreation and skill-building providers will be prohibited from serving school-aged children.” Before and after school programs will also be shut down during the period of January 4 to 8.

Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of the province’s COVID-19 science advisory table, has said anything less than a four-week lockdown will not work, based on the experience of other jurisdictions.

The latest virus projections in Ontario indicate the province’s ability to control the spread of COVID-19 is “precarious.” Data from health advisers concluded that tough lockdowns lasting a month or more could cut the number of daily cases to less than 1,000.

If Ontario’s COVID-19 case rate continues to grow between one and three per cent, the province will have 3,000 to 5,000 daily cases by the end of January, it indicates.

It also shows that under all scenarios the province will see 300 intensive care unit beds filled within 10 days – double the 150-bed threshold at which surgeries must be cancelled.

On Thursday – the last time the province updated its COVID-19 case count – a record 2,447 new cases of coronavirus were reported. Just under 1,000 people were hospitalized with the virus – 277 of them in the ICU.


  • Schools, childcare centres, pharmacies, doctors, and dentist offices will be staying open during the lockdown
  • Essential services such as supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, hardware stores, discount and department store-type retailers, LCBO and beer stores and safety supply stores will also be open. There will be a 50 per cent capacity limit for in-person shopping, which means there could be lineups to get into these places.
  • Vet services will remain open
  • Motor vehicle sales are permitted by appointment only
  • Garden centres and plant nurseries are open by appointment only unless outdoor curbside pickup or delivery is available to the public
  • Outdoor markets are allowed with current public health measures


  • Hair salons and barber shops
  • Nail salons
  • Tattoo parlours
  • Casinos, bingo halls and gaming establishments
  • Amusement parks
  • Strip clubs, bathhouses and sex clubs
  • Museums, galleries, science centres, zoos and aquariums


No indoor organized public events or social gatherings of any kind are allowed except with members of the same household. Outdoor gatherings, where physical distancing can be maintained, are limited to 10 people

Funerals, weddings, religious services
There is a limit of 10 people both indoors and outdoors as long as physical distancing can be maintained. The Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto says it is suspending public masses for the duration of the lockdown, however, churches will remain open for private prayer.

Restaurants, bars, food/drink establishments
Indoor and outdoor service is prohibited but establishments can offer take out, drive through and/or delivery which includes the sale of alcohol.

Retail malls

  • Curbside pickup or delivery only for non-essential businesses; no in-person shopping
  • Essential businesses located within malls are permitted to be open with 50 per cent capacity limits
  • Food courts are open for take-away service only
  • Two-metres of physical distancing must be maintained while standing in line


Sports and recreation facilities, gyms, fitness centres

  • All gyms are closed
  • All indoor facilities such as courts, pools and rinks are closed
  • Indoor team and individual sports are prohibited, including training. Exemptions are in place for high performance and pro league teams/athletes
  • Community centres and multi-purpose facilities are allowed to be open for such things as child care services
  • Outdoor sports, classes and amenities are limited to 10 people


Meeting and Event spaces
These spaces are closed with exemptions for court and government services while mental health and addiction support services are limited to 10 people.

Movie theatres/cinemas
Only drive-in theatres/cinemas are permitted.

Cannabis dispensaries can only offer curbside pickup. No in-person shopping.

Driving instruction
In-person instruction is not allowed; virtual instruction is permitted.

Horse racing
No races are allowed, only training.

Housekeeping, maids, nanny services, babysitters, maintenance services
All of these are permitted with public health measures.

Hotels, motels
Hotels and motels can remain open but pools, fitness centres and meeting rooms are all closed


  • Curbside delivery and pick-up permitted
  • May be open for permitted services such as daycare
  • No classes allowed


Nightclubs can only remain open if they offer take-out, drive through or delivery of food/drink service.

Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report