By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express
Ontario Premier Doug Ford has declared a state of emergency in Ontario until March 31 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are facing an unprecedented time in our history,” said Ford. “This is a decision that was not made lightly. COVID-19 constitutes a danger of major proportions.”
According to a press release from the province, due to the declaration of emergency, a number of establishments are legally required to close their doors, including:
- All facilities providing indoor recreational programs;
- All public libraries;
- All private schools as defined in the Education Act;
- All licensed child care centres;
- All bars and restaurants, except to the extent that such facilities provide takeout food and delivery;
- All theatres including those offering live performances of music, dance, and other art forms, as well as cinemas that show movies; and
- Concert venues.
“We are taking this extraordinary measure because we must offer our full support and every power possible to help our health care sector fight the spread of COVID-19,” said Ford. “The health and wellbeing of every Ontarian must be our number one priority.”
All organized events of 50 people or more will also be prohibited. This includes parades, and communal services within places of worship, such as churches and mosques.
When the state of emergency reaches its expiration date on March 31, the situation will be reassessed for a possible extension.
“We are acting on the best advice of our Chief Medical Officer of Health [Dr. David Williams] and other leading public health officials across the province,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “We know these measures will affect people’s every day lives, but they are necessary to ensure that we can slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect our people. We’re working with all partners across the system, from public health to hospitals and community care, to do everything we can to contain this virus and ensure that the system is prepared to respond to any scenario.”
The Ford government will also invest $304 million into the province’s efforts to fight COVID-19. The funds are highlighted by $100 million invested into increasing capacity at hospitals.
The province will also invest $50 million respectively into testing and screening, protecting frontline workers, first responders and patients, as well as long-term care homes to support full-time screening.
Another $25 million will go to frontline workers in COVID-19 assessment centres, while $20 million will go to residential facilities in development services, gender-based services, and protective care for children.
The province will also invest $5 million into protecting seniors in retirement homes, and $4 million in Indigenous communities.