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UPDATED: Government officials urging calm over COVID-19

Ford government introduces legislation protecting workers

David Kiff found himself with the last box of kleenex after many shelves have been emptied in stores all across the country due to the COVID-19 panic.

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ontario is introducing legislation which will effectively keep residents from losing their jobs should they need to stay home.

If passed, the legislation will provide job protection to employees who are forced to go into self-isolation or quarantine due to COVID-19, as well as those who need to stay home to take care of a loved one.

“While everyone’s concerns about their health and safety is top of mind, the last thing we need is anyone worrying about job security as the COVID-19 situation evolves,” says Premier Doug Ford in a media statement. “That’s why I directed the Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development [Monte McNaughton] to draft legislation that will protect workers and their families during this difficult period.”

The legislation will provide protection to workers for the following reasons:

  • The employee is under medical investigation, supervision or treatment for COVID-19.
  • The employee is acting in accordance with an order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.
  • The employee is in isolation or quarantine.
  • The employee is acting in accordance with public health information or direction.
  • The employer directs the employee not to work.
  • The employee needs to provide care to a person for a reason related to COVID-19 such as a school or day-care closure.

Employees also won’t be required to provide a medical note if they need to take leave.

The legislation will be retroactive to Jan. 25, 2020.

However, Ford and the provincial government are not the only one’s working to aide Ontarians.

In a press release, Oshawa’s MP Colin Carrie noted the House of Commons recently adopted a motion based on a recommendation from the Board of Internal Economy that the house stay closed until April 20.

Carrie himself will be closing his doors to in-person interactions, and is reminding residents of the need for calm.

“I cannot stress the importance of reminding people to not panic, and to watch out for our most vulnerable. Please check on your elderly neighbours, and ensure you leave supplies for those in need,” he said in the press release. “Follow the recommendations from Health Canada and your local health authorities. Canada has gotten through situations like this before, and we will do so again.”

Carrie and the House of Commons aren’t the only ones shutting their doors due to COVID-19, as all municipalities in Durham, and many others across the Greater Toronto Area, have closed all community centres and cancelled recreation programs.

Oshawa city council voted to do so at an emergency meeting on Friday, March 13.

“I don’t think we have any other choice, I’m looking at this as a war mentality and you’re either in or you’re out,” said Ward 2 city councillor Jane Hurst at the meeting.

While a number of government programs have closed, retail stores are still open, and are currently facing a toilet paper shortage due to panicked shoppers buying out their supply.

A visit to any local grocery store exposes empty shelves where toilet paper, sanitary supplies, and non-perishable foods are normally found.

David Kiff, an Oshawa resident shopping at the Five Points Mall Metro on Ritson Road North was simply looking for Kleenex, and found himself with the last pack.

“I wish people would just practise their normal habits and refrain from unnecessary panic,” he told The Oshawa Express.

Kiff suggests stores limit the number of items people can purchase at one time, while also noting he has a neighbour fighting cancer, and he wanted to pick up one pack of toilet paper for them, but the shelves were empty.

At the Superstore at 1385 Harmony Rd. N., Caroline Witzmann was amazed at how empty many of the shelves have become.

“I wasn’t surprised that toilet paper wasn’t available, but the low quantities of eggs and pasta was an eye-opener,” she says.

In response to the empty shelves, the provincial government has urged Canadians to practice their regular grocery habits.

“Ontarians can be confident that our food supply is robust and that our distribution system will continue to operate and remain responsive to the needs of Ontarians,” said Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott in a statement. “Rest assured, we have plenty of food that will continue to reach grocery stores on a regular basis.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to address Canadians at 1 p.m. today as the number of cases of COVID-19 in Canada reportedly jumped from 197 to 324 confirmed cases over the weekend, according to the Canadian government’s website.