Ontario’s newly implemented state of emergency means an immediate, province-wide closure of all leisure venues, recreational/community spaces, private schools and licensed childcare facilities until March 31. Publicly funded elementary and secondary schools are already closed until April 6.
The decree, which Premier Doug Ford outlined in an early morning announcement, also prohibits public events and gatherings of more than 50 people. However, public transit remains operational and key retailers, including grocery stores and pharmacies, commercial office towers, industrial facilities and construction jobsites will be open and functioning.
“This is not a provincial shutdown,” Ford asserted. “The vast majority of businesses, including those most vital to day-to-day life will continue to operate.”
The measures come with an additional $304-million in targeted COVID-19 response spending, to be allocated to healthcare, long-term care, residential care, retirement homes and Indigenous communities. This is intended to augment and enhance protection of frontline staff, increase hospitals’ intake and response capacity, and to underwrite 25 new assessment centres throughout the province. Ford also urged the Canadian government to make appropriate adjustments to the employment insurance (EI) program and to roll out an associated loan program.
“We understand this decision will affect workers across Canada,” he said. “We are taking this extraordinary measure because we must offer our full support and every power possible to help our healthcare sector fight the spread of COVID-19.”