On March 27, 2020 at 2:00 p.m. EST, the Ontario government issued a province-wide emergency alert to travelers returning to Ontario. Earlier in the afternoon, Premier Doug Ford held a press conference to announce the government’s decision to issue the alert. Premier Ford was joined by Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott; Minister of Finance Rod Phillips; and Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction Prabmeet Sarkaria.
Premier Ford, Minister Phillips and Minister Sarkaria also used the press conference to reiterate ways that the Ontario government is supporting businesses in light the economic implications of COVID-19.
Following the press conference Minister Elliott answered a number of questions about state of Ontario’s health care system.
Emergency Alert – Premier Doug Ford
The province-wide emergency alert, issued today at 2:00 p.m. EST, was directed at travelers returning to Ontario. The alert warned that travelers “are at high risk of spreading COVID-19,” are “required by law to self-isolate for 14 days,” and should “NOT visit stores, family or friends.” All Ontarians, including those who have not recently traveled, were encouraged by the alert to stay home.
Premier Ford held a press conference ahead of the emergency alert to explain the Ontario government’s rationale behind issuing the alert. He explained that travelers may not have stayed up-to-date with news from Ontario while out of the province. The government’s intention behind issuing the emergency alert is to reinforce the message to stay home, and this tool will likely be used again in the future to continue to demonstrate the importance of self-isolating.
Premier Ford also relayed concerns from health systems in rural Ontario, particularly those in cottage country, which are over capacity. He asked Ontarians not to travel to their cottages when self-isolating to help ease the burden on rural health care systems.
Support for Businesses – Finance Minister Rod Phillips and Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction Prabmeet Sarkaria
Minister Phillips reiterated the measures being taken to support businesses under Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19, announced Wednesday. The plan includes $6 billion in tax deferrals for 600,000 businesses, as well as $1.9 billion in Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) expense deferrals for employers.
Minister Phillips also pointed to yesterday’s decision to amend regulations to allow bars and restaurants to temporarily sell alcohol as part of delivery or take-out food orders as a measure which will support hospitality businesses.
Associate Minister Sarkaria reiterated his support for small business owners that are particularly hard-hit by the closure of non-essential workplaces and other economic implications of COVID-19. He commended Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for today’s announcement that the federal government will boost the wage subsidy to 75 per cent for small- and medium-sized businesses.
Ontario Health Care System Capacity – Minister Christine Elliott
In response to questions about shortages of necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) for front-line health care workers, Minister Elliott assured reporters that the government is actively working on procurement of PPE and ventilators. The Ontario government is working with the federal government and regular equipment providers to secure necessary equipment. Any companies that can help are being asked to come forward. Minister Elliott also confirmed that there is an active order with automotive parts manufacturers for 10,000 additional ventilators.
Minister Elliott was also asked how doctors should prioritize patient care in a situation where there are not enough available ventilators. Minister Elliott responded that the government is building up the supply of ventilators so that any patient who requires one will have access. She also confirmed that the government is working on creating ethical guidelines for doctors, with the assistance of an ethicist on the COVID-19 Command Table.