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COVID-19: Ontario declares State of Emergency


TORONTO, ON., March 17, 2020 – Today, St. Patrick’s Day, Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency in Ontario, following up from last night’s ‘recommendation’ to close all dine-in restaurant service (restaurants that do no allow take-out or delivery), bars, nightclubs, concert venues and movie theatres with an official order to close. In addition, events with more that 50 people will be prohibited until March 31, 2020.

All private schools, recreation facilities, childcare facilities and places of worship have also been ordered to close. Ford says this is under the advice of Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.

Here is the full list of closures:

As a result of this declaration and its associated orders, the following establishments are legally required to close immediately:

  • All facilities providing indoor recreational programs;
  • All public libraries;
  • All private schools as defined in the Education Act;
  • All licensed child care centres;
  • All bars and restaurants, except to the extent that such facilities provide takeout food and delivery;
  • All theatres including those offering live performances of music, dance, and other art forms, as well as cinemas that show movies; and
  • Concert venues.

“We’re facing an unprecedented time in our history. This is a decision that was not made lightly,” Ford said at a Tuesday morning news conference at Queen’s Park.

Ontario’s Premier stressed that this was not a provincial shutdown, but it is a collective action to flatten the curve of the spread of the virus. At this point essential services, office buildings, malls, grocery stores, public transit, convenience stores, construction sites, LCBO’s, gas stations remain exempt. Premier Ford says this is not a provincial “shutdown.”

“It is important to keep the supply chain open,” said the Ford.

It is the ‘Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act’ that allows the premier the authority to close “any place, whether public or private, including any business, office, school, hospital or other establishment or institution.”

The timing of the announcement assures that all bars will be shut down for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations tonight even though the majority had already decided to comply with last night’s recommendation from Dr. Eileen de Villa, medical officer of health.

Premier Ford also announced what he called the ‘first stage’ of a COVID-19 relief fund investing $300 million for “immediate measures” and to help protect seniors and “flatten the curve.”

Premier Ford said Ontario is taking every step to ‘flatten the curve’ reducing the spread of the COVID-19 virus to protect Ontarians and that “no expense will be spared in support of Ontarians in need.”

Ontario plans to add 25 more COVID-19 assessment centres province-wide. The funding will also allow for 75 critical care beds, 500 post-acute care beds, additional staffing for protection control including the addition of 50 new medical jobs to help support Indigenous and northern communities.

This first stage of the COVID-19 relief fund will also help provide additional masks, gloves, surgical gowns and ventilators for personal care workers.

Premier Ford mentioned several times that it is “essential for the federal government to move forward providing immediate EI for those who will no longer be working as a result of the shut down.”

Ontario’s restaurant and bar industry alone has over 444,000 workers and about 43% of those workers are part-time employees, according to a CBC News report.

Full details on Ontario’s $304 million investment to enhance the province’s response to COVID-19 by providing the following:

  • $100 million for increased capacity in hospitals to assist with the effective treatment of COVID-19 patients both in critical care and medicine beds.
  • $50 million for more testing and screening through public health, including additional funding to support extraordinary costs incurred to monitor, detect and contain COVID-19 in the province. This includes contact tracing, increased laboratory testing capacity and home testing.
  • $50 million to further protect frontline workers, first responders and patients by increasing the supply of personal protective equipment and other critical supplies and equipment to protect them.
  • $25 million to support frontline workers working in COVID-19 assessment centres, including the creation of a new fund to provide respite care, child care services and other supports as they are needed.
  • $50 million for long-term care homes to support 24/7 screening, additional staffing to support infection control and additional supplies.
  • $20 million for residential facilities in developmental services, gender-based services and protective care for children and youth to support additional staffing, respite for caregivers impacted by school closures, personal protective equipment and supplies and transportation costs to minimize client exposure and to support social distancing, as well as additional cleaning costs.
  • $5 million to protect seniors in retirement homes through increased infection control and active screening procedures.
  • $4 million for Indigenous communities to support transportation costs for health care professionals and the distribution of critical supplies.

Additional legislation will also be implemented to ban employers from demanding sick notes for those in self-isolation or quarantine because of COVID-19. Employers will also have to ensure protected leave for workers who have to take unpaid leave to be in self-isolation or quarantine.

Ford also pointed out that additional measures could be implemented in the coming days, “This is changing hour-by-hour, day-by-day,” Ford said in his announcement.

Ontario has the most cases of COVID-19 in Canada with 187.

story by Terry Lankstead

with notes from Ontario.ca

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