September 21, 2020
Today Premier Doug Ford reiterated his call to the federal government to increase funding for Ontario’s provincial priorities, including responding to future waves of COVID-19, strengthening health and long-term care, increasing testing and quarantine enforcement at the border, and making strategic investments in infrastructure projects to spur recovery.
Premier Ford was joined by Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Christine Elliott, and Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe. Following this afternoon’s announcement, Premier Ford, Minister Elliott and Dr. Yaffe responded to questions from media.
Over the weekend, Ontario also announced a province-wide reduction in the number of people permitted to attend private social gatherings.
Premier Ford Reiterates Call for Federal Support
This afternoon, Premier Ford called on the federal government to increase funding for provincial priorities, reiterating the call from his September 18 joint news conference with Premiers Legault, Pallister, and Kenney.
First and foremost, Premier Ford called on the federal government to increase the Canada Health Transfer to cover at least 35 per cent of provincial-territorial health spending. In Ontario, the funding will be used to enhance the province’s fall preparedness plan for the second wave of COVID-19, as well as to address hallway health care.
Ontario is also calling on the federal government to provide immediate and ongoing supports to long-term care residents and caregivers, including investments for staffing, infection prevention and control, and funding to help build new beds and redevelop existing ones to meet modern standards.
Furthermore, Ontario is asking Ottawa to play a more active role in expanding testing and enforcing quarantine rules at the Canadian border.
Finally, the province is requesting the federal government’s support through investments in infrastructure projects to help economic recovery, including $10 billion per year over 10 years. Ontario is also looking to the federal government to remove roadblocks to Greater Toronto Area subway projects and over 360 shovel-ready projects, and to make additional investments to improve broadband service in unserved and underserved communities.
Questions from Media – Response to COVID-19
Fall Preparedness Plan
Minister Elliott confirmed that the government would be releasing the details of its fall preparedness plan to combat the second wave of COVID-19 this week. She added that the province has already started working towards the plan’s objectives of increasing testing and lab capacity. Ontario processed over 40,000 tests on September 19, and is “well on its way” to reaching the goal of 50,000 tests per day.
In response to questions about the timing of the plan’s release, Minister Elliott said that the government has been working for several months to address the challenges associated with a second wave of COVID-19, including the beginning of flu season and an existing backlog in surgeries and procedures from the first wave. Ontario is working with the federal government to see that funds are released to support efforts in these areas.
When asked whether the government would shift its messaging on testing to encourage only symptomatic individuals to be tested, Minister Elliott said the government’s desire is for anyone who is concerned to be able to have a test.
Premier Ford added that up to 60 pharmacies in Ontario may be able to conduct COVID-19 testing by the end of the week, emphasizing that testing in pharmacies would be for asymptomatic individuals who are concerned that they may have contracted the virus.
The province has also extended hours at assessment centres and deployed mobile testing units to address long lineups for tests.
Measures to Limit Outbreaks
In response to questions about how the province will address COVID-19 outbreaks that are not associated with private gatherings, Dr. Yaffe said that health officials are closely monitoring outbreaks in different settings, in order to determine what actions need to be taken to contain the spread of the virus. She added that the emphasis of any measures taken will be to minimize associated impacts. For example, rather than rolling the entire province back to stage two of reopening, health officials will examine steps that can be taken specific to certain problematic sectors or regions.
Province-Wide Reduction in Private Social Gathering Sizes
Over the weekend, Ontario announced a reduction in the allowable size of private social gatherings across the entire province, after first imposing these restrictions on only Toronto, Peel, and Ottawa.
The new gathering limits for “unmonitored private social gatherings” are as follows:
- 10 people at an indoor event or gathering (previous limit of 50), or;
- 25 people at an outdoor event or gathering (previous limit of 100).
The gathering limits apply to functions, parties, dinners, gatherings, BBQs or wedding receptions held in private residences, backyards, parks, and other recreational areas. These limits will NOT apply to events held in staffed businesses and facilities.