Essential Services During COVID-19 Pandemic

Essential Services During COVID-19 Pandemic

Written by Priyanka Correia
Fact-checked by Caitlin Wood
Last Updated May 3, 2021

Despite prevention efforts like increased access to safety products, social distancing, working from home, quarantining, and increased hygiene, COVID-19 continues to rise throughout Canada. In order to flatten the curve, and stop the virus from reaching its peak, more and more mitigation regulations are being introduced by the provincial governments. An extreme but necessary tactic both Quebec and Ontario have recently implemented in an effort to slow down the spread is a 3-week shutdown of all non-essential businesses in the province. 

Essential Services vs. Non-Essential Services

Though an essential service can vary across provinces, it is defined as “any service, facility or activity of the Government of Canada [that] is or will be necessary for the safety or security of the public or a segment of the public” under the Public Service Labour Relations Act. To translate – all services that maintain a functional society, the safety and health of Canadians is considered an essential service.  On the other hand, a non-essential business is any business that wouldn’t have an effect on the health and safety of Canadians such as bars, libraries, gyms, barbershops, clubs, malls, places of worship, etc. 

What Is Open In Ontario And Quebec?

As mentioned, an essential service can vary by province, so we’ll be looking at what Ontario and Quebec have kept open during this shutdown. 


The government of Ontario has listed 19 essential sectors that will remain open, many of which are the cogs that keep society running. Of the 19, we will be going over the ones that have a direct impact on your day-to-day lives.

Retail and wholesale – Grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, liquor stores, pet food stores, hardware stores, pharmacies, safety supply stores and computer products and repair stores. 

Food Service – Restaurants and other food services will only be accessible through delivery and drive-thru. 

Transportation –  all public and private transport for individuals and businesses will continue to operate. 

Financial services – Financial institutions like banks, credit unions and accounting and payroll firms are permitted to continue the business. Insurance and the stock market will also continue to operate. 

Health care services – Health and social services will not shutdown. Suppliers and manufacturers for medication and equipment will also continue to run.  

For a more detailed list of all Ontario’s essential services, click here.


In Quebec, government priority services, logistic services, building maintenance and upkeep services, maintenance and operations of strategic infrastructure, and priority manufacturing activities will all continue its operations in order to sustain a functional society. In addition, the following services will also be open which has more of a direct impact on the public. 

Priority shops – Grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience stores, gas stations, SAQ, funeral homes, hotels, pet food stores, restaurants (take-out and delivery only), movers, work equipment stores, agricultural product stores, and hardware stores.

Priority health care services – This section includes pharmacies, paramedics, RAMQ, veterinarians and all occupations in the health and social services area.

Bank and financial services – Banks, ATMs, insurance, accounting, payroll and stock market services will continue to operate. 

Transport services – Public transportation, taxies, airports and ports will remain open and running for the public.

Media and telecommunications – National and local media will be allowed to continue its operations along with cable distributors, newspaper printing, and telecommunications. 

Public security services – This sections includes the police, firefighters, security agencies, and a few other security services 

For a more detailed list, click here

Note: Both Ontario and Quebec have permitted all e-commerce and teleworking businesses to continue operations.  

What Is Closed In Ontario And Quebec?


All ski hills, gyms, sugar shacks, libraries, community centers, swimming pools, bars, clubs, dine-in restaurants, places of worship, malls, playgrounds, theatres and other retail stores are closed in the province of Quebec. As mentioned, only a few essential stores are open. As for schools, they will be closed in Quebec till May 1st. 


Like Quebec, Ontario facilities that provide indoor recreational activities are closed, as are theatres, dine-in restaurants, libraries, gyms, bars, clubs, places of worship, museums and other attraction sites. Schools in Ontario will be closed until April 6th, but this may change as we learn more about the spread of COVID-19. 

What About The Other Provinces

Each province in Canada has taken some measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 like limiting the number of people in stores and closing community areas like the library, pool, gyms, museums and other high traffic areas. However, provinces like Quebec and Ontario have taken more dramatic measures due to spikes of COVID-19 in their province. Depending on the spread of COVID-19 in each individual province, mitigation measures will vary. 

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Priyanka Correia is a Marketing Coordinator and personal finance expert at Loans Canada. Priyanka completed her Bachelor's degree in Marketing at Concordia University and has published work that has been mentioned in various news media. She is passionate about money management and educating Canadian consumers about how to take control of their financial lives.

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