How will stay-at-home orders impact London, Ont.?

As Ontario attempts to clarify what is essential under the COVID-19 pandemic stay-at-home order, so, too, are officials in London, Ont.

The local health unit is providing details on its website, while the City of London is announcing changes to in-person services.

Police, meanwhile, are explaining how enforcement may look while stressing that the force is still waiting for details from the province.

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The stay-at-home order will take effect on Thursday at 12:01 a.m.

“Under this order, everyone must stay home and only go out for essential trips to pick up groceries or go to medical appointments,” Premier Doug Ford announced Tuesday, adding that walking pets or exercising is still permitted.

A state of emergency was also declared and a provincewide shutdown that began Dec. 26, 2020 remains in place as well.

On its website, the Middlesex-London Health Unit says the order requires everyone to remain at home except for essential purposes like going to grocery stores or pharmacies, accessing health-care services, exercising or attending essential work.

The MLHU also says anyone who can perform their work remotely should work from home.

“This is to be ensured by the people responsible for a business or organization that is open,” the health unit says.

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The City of London issued a release Wednesday afternoon outlining how municipal services will be impacted by the provincial state of emergency and stay-at-home order.

The city says “changes will be made to reduce the need for people to leave their homes” to access services.

As a result, in-person services will only be offered “where they are legislatively required or in extenuating circumstances.” Appointments will still be offered virtually or over the phone whenever possible.

For social services, in-person and drop-in services will not be provided. Instead, people can call 519-661-4520 (toll-free at 1-833-932-2297) or email socialservices@london.ca.

February monthly cheques can be picked up Jan. 28 or 29 or Feb. 1 at Citi Plaza, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Daily cheques can be picked up at Citi Plaza on Fridays between 11 a.m and 2 p.m. or “on an emergency basis and by appointment only.”

Subsidized transit bus passes can be picked up by those eligible for them on the last two business days of the month at Citi Plaza from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., as well as every Friday between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

As for recreation, the Storybook Gardens outdoor skating trail will close starting Thursday but the Neighbourhood-Managed Ice Rink program will continue to accept applications and resident groups and volunteers will be required to monitor ice usage “to ensure compliance with the current restrictions of no more than five individuals gathering who are not from the same household.”

However, many questions remain concerning what exactly is considered essential and how the order will be enforced.

“We’re still waiting for the details of what will be asked of police but we hope to receive those hopefully today or within the next several days,” Chief Steve Williams with the London Police Service said Wednesday in an interview that will air in full on Global News Radio 980 CFPL on Thursday morning.

Throughout the pandemic, police have been working in partnership with the City of London’s bylaw officers to address individuals who have violated restrictions.

“On the police side, it’s been mainly complaint-based, primarily large gatherings. We’ve stepped in and taken enforcement action wherever necessary. So we suspect it’ll be the same approach. We just don’t know precisely the details and what that will look like. So we hope to find out soon.”

When asked if someone walking down the street could be stopped by police and asked where they’re going, Williams said “first we’ll see what the legislation looks like” but that he expects the focus will be on clearly identifiable contraventions.

“It’s not about stopping people randomly — there are many legitimate reasons which would be covered off in the exceptions as to why somebody may be out and about,” he said.

“It’s not about chasing people down. It’s about when we see situations that are in contravention of the orders or we receive complaints that may be putting our community at risk, then we’ll step in.”

Williams later added in a statement that “we are also mindful that there are many in our community who don’t have a home to go to each night, and as has been our practice, we will continue to offer compassion to these individuals and work with our community partners to offer appropriate supports.”

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Orest Katolyk, the head of the city’s bylaw enforcement, had the same response.

“One thing we are not going to do is stop people on sidewalks and in parks and ask them where they’re going,” Katolyk said.

“We are going to be focusing on responding to complaints, responding to hotspots, triaging all complaints. So it’s very much going to be a response for a call for service, as opposed to proactively identifying individuals who go out outside their home.”

— with files from Global News’ Ryan Rocca.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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