By Robin MacLennan
Ontario Construction News staff writer
A province-wide stay-at-home order and new restrictions on non-essential construction will go into effect at midnight Wednesday, as new COVID-19 modelling shows the health-care system is on the verge of being overwhelmed.
The order, expected to be in place for “at least 28 days”, will require everyone to remain at home with exemptions for grocery stores or pharmacies, health care services, for exercise and essential work.
Non-essential construction has been further restricted, including below-grade.
According to the Ontario Homebuilders Association, essential construction includes:
- Projects associated with the healthcare/LTC sectors
- Schools/CC and critical infrastructure
- Industrial construction
- Construction due to be completed before July 2021
Land surveying and demolition services are also permitted.
“Community transmission is widespread. It’s in our hospitals, it’s in our long-term care homes, and it’s in our workplaces,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said Tuesday.
Debate on social media after the announcement included confusion about what is essential and non-essential construction.
RESCON appreciates that residential construction remains operational across Ontario. We will continue to work with members, sub-trades, labour partners,” and Minister @MonteMcNaughton to mitigate the spread of #COVID19 & ensure workers continue to work safety,” the Residential Construction Council of Ontario wrote on Twitter.
“Tracking and tracing is key to stopping the spread of #COVID19, combined with mask wearing, hand washing & physical distancing. RESCON encourages construction workers to continue to follow public health guidelines.”
Updated regulations in play across the province starting Thursday include every person in the premises of a business or organization that is open shall ensure that they wear a mask or face covering that covers their mouth, nose and chin, when they are in indoor areas of the premises, with limited exemptions.
Premier Ford said the state of emergency will be in effect for at least 28 days.
The latest modelling data shows that Ontario is in a crisis and, with the current trends, our hospital ICUs will be overwhelmed in a few short weeks with unthinkable consequences,” said Premier Ford.
A statement from Premier Doug Ford’s office issued Tuesday afternoon outlines construction work that will be “deemed essential” and allowed to continue during the enhanced restrictions:
- Construction projects and services associated with the healthcare sector and long-term care, including new facilities, expansions, renovations and conversion of spaces that could be repurposed for health care space.
- Construction projects and services required to ensure safe and reliable operations of, or to provide new capacity in, provincial infrastructure, including transit, transportation, energy, mining and justice sectors beyond the day-to-day maintenance.
- Construction projects and services that support the operations of, and provide new capacity in schools, colleges, universities, municipal infrastructure and child care centres within the meaning of the Child Care and Early Years Act, 2014.
- Construction projects under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program
- Construction projects and services that support the operations of Broadband internet and cellular technologies and services.
- Critical industrial construction activities required for,
the maintenance and operations of petrochemical plants and refineries,
significant industrial petrochemical projects where preliminary work has already commenced,
industrial construction and modifications to existing industrial structures limited solely to work necessary for the production, maintenance, and/or enhancement of Personal Protective Equipment, medical devices (such as ventilators), and other identified products directly related to combatting the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Construction projects that are due to be completed before July 2021 and that would provide additional capacity in the production, processing, manufacturing or distribution of food, beverages or agricultural products.
- Construction projects that were commenced before January 12, 2021, and that would,
provide additional capacity for businesses that provide logistical support, distribution services, warehousing, storage or shipping and delivery services, or
ii. provide additional capacity in the operation and delivery of Information Technology (IT) services or telecommunications services.
- Residential construction projects where,
a footing permit has been granted for single family, semi-detached and townhomes
the project is a condominium, mixed use or other residential building, or
the project involves renovations to residential properties and construction work was started before January 12, 2021.
- Construction to prepare a site for an institutional, commercial, industrial or residential development, including any necessary excavation, grading, roads or utilities infrastructure.
- Construction and maintenance activities necessary to temporarily close construction sites that have paused or are not active and to ensure ongoing public safety.
- Below-grade multi-unit residential construction projects, such as apartments and condominiums. The Ontario government also provided that businesses must follow public health measures and should review the workplace safety guidelines.
- Construction on any project intended to provide either,
affordable housing, or
shelter or supports for vulnerable persons,
- If the project is being funded in whole or in part by, or is being undertaken by, any of the following:
A. the Crown in right of Canada or in right of Ontario,
B. an agency of the Crown in right of Canada or in right of Ontario,
C. a municipality,
D. a service manager as defined in the Housing Services Act, 2011, or
E. a registered charity and not for profit within the meaning of the Income Tax Act (Canada)
The statement says essential work sites protections will be enhanced with workplace testing and additional enforcement to ensure compliance.