On April 8, 2020, Premier Doug Ford announced that Ontario is extending hours for essential construction projects in the health care sector as part of the province’s response to COVID-19. Premier Ford was joined by Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health and Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development.
Following this afternoon’s announcement, Premier Ford and Minister Elliott spoke to media about the urgent need to increase the number of COVID-19 tests conducted daily in Ontario.
Extended Construction Hours for Critical Health Construction Projects
Today, Premier Ford announced that Ontario is extending hours for critical health care construction projects to 24 hours a day by temporarily limiting local noise bylaws from applying to these types of activities. The temporary noise by-law exemption will allow for expedited construction of facilities such as new hospitals, hospital expansions, and COVID-19 assessment centres.
Extending hours for essential health construction projects will also give worksite managers more flexibility to protect worker health and safety by staggering shifts and limiting the number of people in one place, as outlined in the guidelines for construction sites, issued by Ontario’s Chief Prevention Officer on March 29, 2020.
Minister McNaughton outlined other steps that Ontario is taking to ensure the safety of essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, including:
- Redeploying more than 30 employment standards officers to help businesses understand and comply with health and safety requirements;
- Issuing health and safety guidance notes to support specific sectors;
- Doubling the capacity of Ontario’s Health and Safety Call Centre from 25 to 50 phone lines, and;
- Issuing a call to recently retired inspectors who may be able and willing to return to their positions.
Ontario COVID-19 Testing Capacity
Following this afternoon’s announcement, Premier Ford and Minister Elliott spoke to media about the urgent need to increase the number of COVID-19 tests conducted each day in Ontario.
Premier Ford said that Ontario’s current rate of testing is “unacceptable,” as the province announced just over 2,500 test results yesterday and just over 3,000 results today. While Premier Ford acknowledged that prior barriers to testing stemmed from a shortage of reagent, he said that Ontario now has the capacity to conduct 13,000 tests per day and there is no reason why the province’s full testing capabilities should not be used. He has directed Ontario Health to conduct 13,000 tests per day, beginning tomorrow.
Premier Ford said that ongoing efforts to secure more personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline workers in Ontario should be complemented by increased testing for COVID-19, particularly for frontline health care workers, residents in long-term care and retirement homes, first responders, and Indigenous communities. He pointed to widespread COVID-19 testing efforts in South Korea as an effective method of slowing the spread of the virus.
When asked how long Ontario could sustain testing at a rate of 13,000 tests per day, Premier Ford assured reporters that the province has a supply of over 900,000 tests, with more reagent and new test kits arriving daily.
Minister Elliott confirmed that the government has a plan in relation to testing and priority groups and that the details will be released soon. She also confirmed that the criteria for COVID-19 testing has been expanded to include a greater array of symptoms.