On March 23, 2020, Ontario Premier Doug Ford ordered the mandatory closure of all non-essential workplaces to further contain the spread of COVID-19. The mandatory closure will take effect on Tuesday, March 24 at 11:59 p.m., and will remain in effect for 14 days with the possibility of an extension. A full list of businesses that are permitted to stay open can be found on ontario.ca.
Premier Ford was joined by Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott; Solicitor General Sylvia Jones; and Minister of Finance Rod Phillips.
After his announcement, Premier Ford took questions about the upcoming call between provincial premiers and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as well as school closures, COVID-19 tests and acceptable social distancing measures.
In addition to today’s announcement by Premier Ford, the Ontario government announced that it will provide $200 million in social services relief funding to municipalities and social service providers in order to help protect the health and safety of the province’s most vulnerable people.
Yesterday, the Ontario government also announced that certain childcare centres will be exempted from the order to close pursuant to the state of emergency declared last week. These centres will provide emergency care for the children of frontline workers, including doctors, nurses, paramedics, firefighters, police, and correctional officers.
Mandatory Closure of Non-Essential Workplaces
Premier Ford announced today that all non-essential workplaces in Ontario will be required to close as of 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24th. The closure will remain in effect for at least 14 days but may be extended as the situation continues to evolve. The mandatory closure will not apply to services responsible for the maintenance of supply chains so that Ontarians continue to have access to necessities such as groceries and medicines.
The Ontario government has published a full list of essential businesses that are permitted to stay open. A 1-800 number and website will also be available beginning Wednesday for any inquiries.
Businesses that can continue operations with employees working remotely, or through other contingency measures, will be permitted to do so. The timing of today’s announcement provides such businesses with approximately 36 hours to prepare and adapt as necessary.
Premier Ford mentioned that bylaw and other policing partners will assist in enforcing mandatory business closures. There will be consequences for businesses that choose to ignore this order.
In response to questions about whether compensation will be provided to businesses that are forced to shut down, Premier Ford said that more details would be announced on Wednesday when the government releases its economic and fiscal update.
Other Updates – Call with PM, School Closures, and COVID-19 Tests
When asked whether he would push for the invocation of the Emergencies Act on a call this evening between Canada’s first ministers and Prime Minister Trudeau, Premier Ford said that this is a federal government decision.
Premier Ford also indicated that the timeline of reopening schools on April 6, 2020 does not seem realistic given the current situation and that Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, will have further comments on this matter over the following days.
When asked about efforts to speed up the processing time of COVID-19 tests conducted in the province, Premier Ford confirmed that his government is reaching out to university labs and the private sector for assistance. The biggest issue affecting the processing time of these tests is the short supply of reagent.
In response to questions about issuing a stay-at-home order, which would be enforceable by police, to all Ontarians, Premier Ford said that only a small minority of people are ignoring recommendations to stay at home. He emphasized the importance of only leaving the home when necessary, in small groups, and taking precautions to keep at least two metres away from other groups. He also reiterated that Ontarians returning from travel must go directly home, and are not permitted to stop at stores prior to doing so.
$200-million for Municipalities and Social Service Providers
Prior to today’s press conference, the Ontario government also announced that it will be providing $200-million in social services relief funding to help protect the province’s most vulnerable people during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funding will be provided to municipalities and social service providers such as shelters, food banks, emergency services, charities and non-profits. It will enable these services to continue to operate, hire additional staff, and find ways to promote social distancing and self-isolation to keep clients safe and healthy. Ontario’s 47 municipal service managers will be responsible for determining local needs and distributing the funding accordingly.
The Ontario government is also putting in place an expanded Emergency Assistance program administered through Ontario Works for individuals who do not qualify for emergency financial supports under federal programs. This will help these individuals to cover the cost of food, rent, medicine, transportation and other services. Individuals can apply online at Ontario.ca/community.
Provision of Child Care for Frontline Workers
In addition to today’s announcement, the Ontario government announced yesterday that certain child care centres will be exempted from the order to close pursuant to the state of emergency declared last week. These centres will provide emergency care for the children of frontline workers, including doctors, nurses, paramedics, firefighters, police, and correctional officers. Child care centres will be required to have plans in place in the event that any staff, children, or parents are exposed to COVID-19.
Once emergency child care centres open, a list of locations will be published at Ontario.ca/coronavirus.
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