Implications of the Ontario Provincial Emergency on Research Activities

A message from Professor Lori Ferris, Associate Vice-President, Research (Oversight and Compliance) January 14, 2021

The Government of Ontario has announced a provincial emergency and a stay-at-home order, effective Thursday, January 14. This order requires “everyone to remain at home with exceptions for essential purposes, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services, for exercise or for essential work”.

This message is an update to our December 21 message. Please note that the only research-related changes arising from the January 12 provincial emergency declaration is that the institution is responsible for ensuring that any person who performs work conducts their work remotely, unless the nature of their work requires them to be on-site at the workplace. Therefore:

  • All research work that can be conducted remotely must be done remotely, and researchers may only work on campus if the nature of the work requires them to be on-site

We are also requiring the following:

  • Please limit travel on campus; perform work during approved, designated shifts in designated work areas unless individuals are absolutely required to travel to other areas

There are no changes for on-campus lab research: the regulations allow organizations that maintain research facilities and engage in research to continue and therefore researchers may continue with their approved on-campus research plans, with only those who require access to campus facilities being allowed to come to campus. All researchers that can work remotely (from home) must do so. Those who come to campus must continue to follow the public health measures already in place and the processes currently in effect, such as the proper use of appropriate personal protective equipment (e.g. masks), maintenance of physical distancing, scheduling of time and people in the lab, and following recommended entry and exit routes in buildings. Anyone coming to campus must complete a COVID-19 Self-Assessment.

For human participant research: given the increased levels of community transmission and the risk for human participants, all face-to-face (in-person) research involving human participants, that was approved by the University (e.g. U of T REB is the Board of Record) continues to be paused until further notice except for the exceptions below. This includes all in-person recruitment of human participants; in-person data collection involving human participants for on-going research; as well as studies involving human participants that have recently received REB approval. Online and virtual research may continue as usual.

Human Participant Research Exceptions

  • COVID-19 research;
  • Where the U of T REB is the Board of Record and the study involves in-person research where the participant is receiving a service that would be delivered/received regardless of the research. Please contact the Human Research Ethics Unit at for confirmation that your research falls into this category;
  • Where the U of T REB is not the Board of Record (e.g. a TAHSN REB is the Board of Record), researchers should follow the applicable direction of that institution (assuming the in-person research is not on our campus);
  • Researchers currently in other regions or countries conducting U of T REB-approved in-person research may continue, as long as they follow all applicable public health directives and safety measures, including all regional directives. If you have any questions/concerns regarding safety while conducting in-person research, please contact 

Please visit the University’s Human Research Ethics Webpage for more details.

For field research (not face-to-face human participant research): researchers currently conducting approved field research may continue, as long as they follow all applicable public health directives and safety measures, including all provincial and local directives. If researchers can work remotely (from home) they must do so, only going in the field as necessary. If you have any questions/concerns regarding safety while conducting research, please contact

Please note that new proposals to conduct field research activities must demonstrate why both the research and the travel are essential, and require a risk assessment conducted by Occupational Health and Safety prior to travel; please contact for further information and guidance. Final approval will be provided by the divisional research restart process, where there will need to be a justification for essential travel and essential research. If approved, please note field researchers must ensure they are aware of and abide by any travel restrictions and local public health requirements at their research host location.

Please continue to visit this page for any updates.